How do you handle correction? If you are anything like me, you probably hate it. Poor handling of correction is nothing new for humanity. Adam blamed others. Cain got upset. The Pharisees denied. Ananias lied. Fighting against correction is in our human, rebellious nature. We absolutely disdain the very idea of being corrected. The truth is, we hate being corrected more than we hate the actual mistake. I am fine with making mistakes, as long as someone else is not telling me about it. This attitude probably sums you up as well. The root issue here is pride. Pride is what burns in the flesh when you are corrected. Pride is what tells you to make those poor reactions. How you handle correction is generally a sign of how much pride controls your life. Few of us have the reactions toward correction that we should.
The fact of the matter is that each of us needs to be corrected. Christians have always and will always need to be sharpened and even disciplined by the Lord (Hebrews 12). The Lord uses times of correction to smooth out all of our rough edges. Believe it or not, you are not a finished product. Like the potter and the clay, you need to be made more and more like Christ. There is no such thing as a Christian being sanctified without also being reproved and corrected. Peter (an Apostle!) had to endure the public correction of Paul (Galatians 2). Was this for Peter’s detriment? Of course not. The discipline of the Lord is so that we may “share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). We may not always desire correction, but it is certainly needed for both our good and our growth as believers.
So if correction is to be expected for the Christian, and even embraced, how then are we to react? What must we do when someone calls us out or challenges our actions when everything inside of us wants to brawl? Fortunately, we are not without guidance from Scripture. Here are a few things to keep in mind when correction comes:
This called reaction goes without saying. Even the newest believer recognizes the mark of humility in Jesus and can recall much Scripture on the subject. Raging against correction like a Pharisee is never a good idea. The reality is that, even if we don’t see it at first, we may be in the wrong. You do make mistakes; get over it and don’t let pride blind you to this fact. Don’t fall in to the sin that Job fell into. He was righteous, yet was reproved by God for his pride. If the correction is unwarranted, still listen with humble ears and react with a meek spirit, considering all you hear.
Reacting this way is no easy thing, granted. The expectation from Scripture is not that your life will be perfectly filled with humility. There is a reason why the call to humility is mentioned so often in the New Testament; it is because you need to be reminded to be humble. Humility is not a natural reaction of the flesh. It comes by the Spirit shaping and molding you.
Prudence is something almost entirely lacking in our culture. Reacting with outrage is not only the norm, but seems to be the only way we know how to react. This should certainly not be the case for Christians. If anyone knows about prudence and taking time to think through things, it should be the Christian. We are not called to be reactionary, like social media all but requires. We are called to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”(Matthew 10:16) Even Solomon, throughout Proverbs and starting at the very beginning, calls us to prudence. Several times he contrasts the prudent with those who are reckless and act foolishly. There is a stark difference between the one who cuts off ears and the one who heals them. We must follow the footsteps of the latter.
First, we should be honest with ourselves. As aforementioned, it would be easy to make excuses, play the blame game, or straight deny any reason for correction. People have been doing those things since the Fall. On the contrary, we must be the ones with a clear self-awareness. I know that self-awareness has almost gone extinct, but we must recover what is left of it. Christians are called to look in the mirror and see all the blemishes. You cannot afford to tell yourself the lie that you are alright just the way you are. You are broken. Even in Christ you need constant renewal. Fortunately, we don’t have to spend time beating ourselves up. We rest in the blood of Jesus, while at the same time acknowledging our fleshly failures. We must see the need for correction and embrace it. If Paul can be transparent about his sins with the church in Rome, then certainly we can be honest with ourselves about our own flaws.
Secondly, we must be honest with others. It is the easiest thing in the world to pretend like we have everything perfectly together. It is not hard to deny any correction, as if you are above reproach. The reality is that others see the pride, and the pride is what does the most damage. Instead, be honest and transparent. Admitting fault shows maturity and the work of the Spirit. It would have been better for Ananias and Sapphira to face embarrassment for admitting sin, rather than continually lie to the Holy Spirit.
Being honest with others might also lead you to confession. If you are guilty in your need of correction, or in your negative reaction toward it, forgiveness is needed. Lay aside the pride that so easily entangles; seek forgiveness.
Unlike Cain, we must avoid letting our head hang low in anger. God told Cain that sin was “crouching at the door,” and that sin’s desire was for Cain (Genesis 4). Sin has not changed its ways; its desire is still for you. For every believer who has been or ever will be corrected, the struggle to fight against sin is real. Pride swells in our flesh, and its desire is to burst forth. Realize that Christ has called you to something more. Reacting in a holy way toward correction is not simply a harsh discipline to be endured, but a blessing to be embraced. “Blessed is the one whom God reproves.” (Job 5:17) If the Scripture is true – and it most certainly is – then we must not fight against correction but acknowledge that we are sinners in need of being shaped by the Spirit. Often times that shaping will come through correction. Do not be deceived. The Christian life is not one of comfort and ease. It is a life of reproof and correction, rebuke and exhortation. With these things, however, comes godliness, and godliness is of value in every way, as it “holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)