According to Psalm 141:5, the rebuke of the righteous is a kindness, like an excellent oil (think of one that has the perfect combination of optimal medicinal healing and pleasing aroma). David would know such to be true, because the righteous prophet Nathan rebuked him for his sin with Bathsheba which had prompted the premeditated death of her husband Uriah in battle.
According to the apostle Paul, it is the spiritual who seek to reclaim erring brethren (Galatians 6:1). Their rebuke ought not be stubbornly refused but prized and readily accepted (Psalm 141:5).
So, how exactly does the righteous rebuke? The simple answer is: by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). To flesh this answer out a little more, consider these four ingredients found in the excellent oil of the righteous’ rebuke:
- Honesty. Righteousness requires truthfulness. Sin is hideous, horrific, and heinous. Therefore, when Peter addressed the unrighteousness in Simon of Samaria’s heart, he did not use tepid, generic, vague language. Instead, “Peter said to him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.’” (Acts 8:2-23). Nathan’s rebuke of David was even more direct, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).
- Meekness. “Power under control” is an accurate working definition of this word. A person in sin is in a grave state of spiritual vulnerability and brokenness. How they are handled while in that state will go a long way toward determining whether their brokenness heals properly or whether they are scarred for life. Meekness matters.
- Empathy. Paul’s inspired instructions are clear—”restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Arrogance—a “better than thou” attitude—is the antithesis of empathy. Arrogance poisons a rebuke of sin; empathy enhances the healing powers of one’s rebuke. Be empathetic.
- Self-examination. As Jesus so graphically illustrates in Matthew 7, do not be worrying about another’s speck in his eye when you have a telephone pole sticking out of yours. Examine yourself and eliminate your flaws before striving to help another with their shortcomings. There is something particularly distasteful about the image of a morbidly obese physician lecturing his patient about being five pounds overweight.
Rebuking sin is something the righteous do; it is especially helpful when these four ingredients are expertly combined and used appropriately. “Let my head not refuse it” (Psalm 141:5).