We live in a politically correct generation that finds offense even the most well-motivated corrections. We bristle with anger if someone suggests that we are wrong. “Mind your own business!” we retort.
To this attitude, Psalm 141:5 offers a stark contrast: “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” Oh, how we should cultivate this mindset! We need for godly people to correct us and corral us to the right path when we stray.
David, the author of that line, showed this kind of heart in his own life. When the prophet Nathan confronted David dramatically about a sin he had committed, David responded with contrition, recognizing humbly, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). As king, David could have reacted very differently! Others, like a later king, Joash, killed the prophets who spoke out against them (2 Chronicles 24:20-21).
If we truly want to seek the righteousness of the kingdom, then mature Christians employing the word of God will help us – even if it stings to hear that we are wrong. If we can make this attitude a part of our life, what things might change for us?
1) We will lower our defenses when someone points out our wrongdoing. Our first instinct when someone criticizes us is to feel offended, then to defend ourselves as if against attack, and finally to make counteraccusations. It takes a lot of control over our spirit to listen to and value the rebukes of even righteous people.
2) We will voluntarily be open about our sins and shortcomings, and seek help. Surely David wished he had sought the Lord’s counsel through Nathan long before his sin had advanced so far! What if the advice we receive is painful and difficult? “It is a kindness…let my head not refuse it.”
3) We will attend church services. For many people it is uncomfortable to hear the preacher’s sermons, because they feel condemned. But surely we don’t go to church just to hear that we are all right! Rather, we recognize our need for the proclamation of God’s standards to rebuke our evil and to drive us to correct ourselves with his help.
Jesus knew more than anyone else the value of a righteous man’s rebuke. This is why he never minced words with those who needed to be condemned. The Pharisee that invited Jesus over for a meal in Luke 11 likely considered Jesus’ stern words towards him as an insult. “You fools!…Woe to you Pharisees! For you…neglect justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:40-42). Harsh? Certainly. But far from being an insult, these words were a rescue mission, a hand being reached out to save a man rushing wildly downstream in a river of self-righteousness which would carry him to spiritual death. They represented the greatest kindness this man had ever or would ever receive.
How would you have responded? Your reaction to legitimate rebukes says everything about the true aims of your heart.