The Book of Proverbs is replete with warnings against despising correction or counsel (9: 7-8; 10: 17; 12: 1; 15: 5, 10, 12, 32). It is not easy for most of us to accept reproof. This is due to our depraved nature. In our pride, we think that we are always right. Thus, we reject any form of instruction.
On the other hand, one who values reproof is richly rewarded. What are some of these blessings? “He will be yet wiser” and “will increase in learning” (9: 9), he “shall be honoured” (13: 18), he “getteth understanding” (15: 32); he is “prudent” (15: 5). Our receptiveness to admonition helps us to see our faults and follies, and to correct them. This will enhance our testimony, and our relationship with the Lord and our fellowmen.
o A right view of reproof
A right view of reproof will enable us to receive correction humbly and thankfully. The psalmist saw the admonitions of the righteous as “kindness” and “an excellent oil” which healed and refreshed his spirit: “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head” (Ps 141:5). The kindness experienced by the psalmist was as if the reprover had broken a box of precious oil upon his head. This act of devotion was regarded by the Jews as a high expression of love.
C H Spurgeon elaborates: “Sometimes godly men rap hard; they do not merely hint at evil, but hammer at it; and even then we are to receive the blows in love, and be thankful to the hand which smites so heavily. Fools resent reproof; wise men endeavour to profit by it. … Oil breaks no heads, and rebuke does no man any harm; rather, as oil refreshes and perfumes, so does reproof when fitly taken sweeten and renew the heart.”
David himself was an example of one who received reproof in the right spirit. Upset by the churlish reaction of Nabal, Abigail’s husband, to his request for help, David resolved to avenge himself (I Sam 25: 13). Setting out with 400 men, he was met by Abigail, who turned the king from his violent intent with her wise and gentle words (vv 23-31). His openness to her timely counsel and intervention prevented an ugly incident of bloodshed. David expressed his gratitude in vv 32-33: “And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.”
On a later occasion, when Nathan the prophet confronted him concerning his adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband, Uriah, David confessed his sin immediately (II Sam 12: 1-14). David was thankful that the Lord sent the righteous to admonish him and to direct him to the right path.
o The wounds of a faithful friend
We can distinguish a true friend from a false one from the way they speak to us. A false friend will flatter or humour us, but a true friend will have the courage to tell us our faults: “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov 27: 5-6). Though his reproof may hurt us, it reveals our friend’s love and genuine concern for us. Bearing this truth in mind will help us to appreciate the kind reprover and heed his wise counsel. Someone made this interesting remark: “You should ask God for wounding friends!”
Philip Henry beautifully describes the proper offices and uses of Christian reproof. “To reprove a brother is like as, when he is fallen, to help him up again, when he is wounded, to help to cure him; when he hath broken a bone, to help to set it; when he is out of the way, to put him in it; when he is fallen into the fire, to pluck him out; when he hath contracted defilement, to help to cleanse.”
As sinners saved by grace, we still have our sinful lusts and follies. There are areas in our lives that need correction. When admonished, let us not respond in pride or anger, or treat our reprover as an enemy. A dismissive or negative response reveals a scornful and rebellious heart. Rather, let us be open to receive admonition from others. May we appreciate our family members, friends or brethren who are caring enough to reprove us for our own good. May the Lord grant us grace to receive their reproofs with a right heart.