There are a couple of most practical texts in the New Testament that don’t get much press:

  • “… be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (II Timothy 4:2)
  • “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” (Titus 2:15)

These became existential with me in my early pastoral years when I inherited a very small-minded, vocal, and destructive person, who also happened to be an Elder in the congregation. He had been responsible for all kinds of conflict in that small church, and was something of a self-appointed judge of everything, including me. But, by the grace of God, I also had a wonderful and encouraging and wise friend who happened to be a mid-life convert to Christ, and who happened to be a tough labor-negotiator for an international labor union. I was running by him my dilemma with this troublesome personality, and asked what he thought I should do. He, thereupon, quoted to me that II Timothy passage (above) and said: “Bob, it may be out of season, but you need to confront him and rebuke him unmistakably.”

I took his advice, and with stomach-in-mouth invited this guy for coffee and laid it out for him. He seemed not to even have heard what I said, but only asked what we could do for the good of the church. I told him to stop sowing discord. He smiled and thanked me for coffee as though deaf to my word, but later that year he and his wife quietly left the church.

Another illustration that was helpful to me was that in the very early days of television, before the days of mega-churches and evangelical superstars on television, there was Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen. Sheen was a Jesuit priest with a rapier sharp mind, and on a television set against a plain curtain as background, would without notes, quietly stride back and forth, piercing eyes always on the camera, but giving these remarkable Biblical insights into the ethical, social, personal, and political facets of real life, and could gently rebuke and reprove most helpfully. Years later, I was invited, with a few others, to have breakfast with (by then) Archbishop Sheen and saw what a profound person he was, and to learn of his personal disciplines that focused on the body and blood of Christ. (His fellow Jesuit, who is now Pope Francis also has a gift of boldly confronting and rebuking those in high places who are engaged in highly questionable decisions.)

So, when I read in the news this week that the Washington group of Christians which has sponsored the Presidential Prayer Breakfast for 66 years had invited our unbelieving, amoral, untruthful president the courtesy to be a speaker, I was chagrined. Somehow that organization seems to have lost its integrity. Their best ministry to the president would be, perhaps, to invite him to be their guest, but to invite as the primary platform speaker who could in love offer the president the ministry of rebuke, reproof, and solid teaching.  That’s my reaction. I could be wrong. Naïve? Maybe. But I don’t think so. I would love to hear from others. It may be “out of season” but such spiritually, morally, and truthfully unfocused, and contrary to the teachings of Christ, leadership does, indeed, need the blessing of godly rebuke.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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5 Responses to BLOG 2/9/18. “BE READY … REPROVE, REBUKE, AND EXHORT”

  1. Frank A. says:

    On our president, right on! About the Pope, jury is still out as to whether his support for Bishop Barros in Chile, thought by many to be complicit in the covering up of the sex crimes of a convicted cleric, is fair.

  2. Sarah E. says:

    If only!!

    Sarah E

  3. Craig says:

    The hard part is not identifying the grossly immoral who we can rebuke at a distance or who should be rebuked by others. The hard part is knowing if and how and when we should lovingly confront those we interact with in our own daily lives. It’s a fine line to cross before you are conceived as a judgmental jerk. So I say nothing.

    • rthenderson says:

      I quite agree, Craig. Life and obedience to Christ defies simple axioms, but there are these guidelines that give us a sense of direction. Even so, we often do not do it perfectly. But we still must not dismiss the discipine that is called for here

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