The Woven Cord of Correction, Discernment and Humility
Nobody this side of Heaven can claim perfection. We'd laugh in the face of the fool who would make such a claim, and with good reason. While we strive with all diligence toward that lofty goal, we just can't quite manage to get there. This means that all of us—ALL of us-- are at times in need of correction. How we go about correcting someone and how we receive correction reveals a lot about where we are in our daily walk.
We see an interesting exchange between Paul and the apostle Peter (Cephas) in Galatians 2: 11-14
11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
So, how did that correction turn out? We find Peter writing in 2 Peter 3: 15 of his “beloved brother Paul”, even acknowledging that Paul's epistles were sometimes “hard to understand”, recognizing and appreciating Paul's wisdom. The following verses show no resentment or grudges. Paul was his beloved brother, even if he did call Peter out in front of the church and some of its highest leaders. Why would Paul do this? Jesus said in Matthew 18: 15-17 that there was an order in which correction
should take place.
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
In this case, the separation of Jewish and Gentile believers had gone on long enough that others were being led astray, even the steadfast Barnabas. Sin is contagious. Paul acted as a surgeon, cutting away
the disease of binding people with the Law before it could put more people in chains, including Peter himself. Peter had obviously recognized his error and repented. That took real humility. After all, the
Big Fisherman had become recognized as one of the most influential of the apostles. But Peter never thought himself so exalted as to never needing redirection. He bowed to the truth of the Gospel and changed his ways.
So, what does this have to do with us? Plenty. Like in those days, there's plenty of error being taught out there. People are being deluged in so much teaching that just plain isn't even Christian anymore. When we're presented with a correction, what do we do? Sulk? Get offended? Neither one will help our walk with God. But how we handle the correction requires a great deal of humility and discernment.
1. Go ahead, admit it. You don't know everything. You could actually be wrong. Carefully consider what you're being told.
2. Pray for wisdom and discernment. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
Wait, listen and expect an answer, because God does not want you misdirected and possibly shipwrecked. His word reveals everything we need to know to live a life of godly service.
3. If anything doesn't line up with the Word of God, or if the Word has to be twisted even slightly off kilter, reject it and do so at once. Their intentions may have been good, but their doctrine is warped. A warped rail can derail even the strongest train. Thank them for their input and move on.
4. If they are right, don't slink away in shame. Thank them for loving you enough to correct you and rejoice that your walk is better for learning this.
5. If you're the one doing the correcting, do so in humility. After all, you've been wrong sometime in your past. Have some compassion on your brother or sister and treat them with respect and dignity. Who among us hasn't been the victim of someone who has way too much pleasure in humiliating and a lot less interest in saving, correcting, and building up a member of Christ's family?
6. You are NOT responsible for someone's response. If they take offense, don't join them in a hissy fit of your own. It takes maturity and spiritual muscle to stand up under the onslaught, but do it anyway. You leave the door open to minister to them at a later date and you glorify your Father. He will be pleased and reward you accordingly.
Wrap yourself in this precious woven cord and pull it tight. It protects you against the raging sea of error that surrounds you these days and draws you to maturity.