In his timeless classic, The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter is at pains to confront laziness amongst those who are called to the service of leading, feeding and giving heed to the flock of God.
He challenges those who take umbrage with his confrontation with these words: “Would you be but as impatient with your sins as with our reproofs.” He is challenging those who have been irritated by his confrontation not to be irritated with him, but rather to be irritated with their sinful slothfulness.
Why is it that we get upset with those who point out our sins?
Children, from the earliest age, learn very quickly to deflect the parent’s rebuke by either blaming a sibling or situation, or (amazingly) becoming a keen botanist by changing the subject to the beauty of the bougainvillaeas! (In this respect, I speak from experience). We are master dodgers!
I write this article simply to encourage you, once again, to be cultivating a swift-to-hear-slow-to-speak-slow-to-anger attitude. This attitude is expanded upon in James 1:19ff. The church, if anything, is a place for attitudinal overhauls. By her very nature, she will be a place where much confrontation takes place.
Confrontation, thankfully, is not a four-letter word and yet, when it is used, the same chill goes down your spine, doesn’t it? How many times have you heard it said, “Nobody likes confrontation”? Why not? Surely in the safety of a covenant family, confrontation is good? I shudder to think where I would be had my parents not confronted me in my rebellion and disobedience as a child. I shudder to think how I would be had faithful believers not challenged me on my observance of the Lord’s Day. I would have had a much better golfing handicap, but would have been spiritually handicapped.
Imagine what would have happened to Saul of Tarsus had Jesus never confronted him? Imagine how much deeper King David would have sunk himself in trying to cover up his adultery and murder had Nathan not confronted him?
Brothers and sisters, let’s not kid ourselves: The first step of loving correction is confrontation. Let’s not build semantic walls around that word and around that activity. Scripture is clear: If you are not open to receive the discipline that comes from the Lord (mediated through His precious people), then you are not a child of God (Hebrews 12:5-9).
The reality is, we are all sinners in need of the drastic conforming work of God in order to make us more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:29). And this conforming work does not happen in the vacuum of a Jesus-and-me relationship. In fact, this selfsame verse in Romans 8 confirms that conformation to Christ is done so that Christ may be honoured among many brethren.
So, yes, it is your business, as brother and sisters, what happens in my home and work place and relationships and vice versa. If you are shielding your life, or even parts of it, from the members of Christ’s body, you need to urgently and seriously ask why! The finger cannot hide away from the eye, nor can the foot be doing its own thing while the rest of the body moves in a different direction. In such a situation, the hand and the leg will rapidly move to rectify the situation, or the whole body will be tripped up.
Brothers and sisters, let’s take seriously the body principle and get used to confrontation and correction as a part of normal church life. Let us all be radically impatient with our sin rather than with the confronter and the confrontation. Let us realise that God often uses other people as His instruments of grace in our lives. Or perhaps I should just repeat the inspired words of God: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked by Him.”