Ps Tan Hui Ru

As Iron Sharpens Iron

Humans are hard. That’s not a typo or a grammatical error, by the way. Being human is hard, being around humans is also hard, relating to humans is hard. This is true everywhere. But when faith and discipleship come into this equation, many times it means humans are harder.

There’s just more at stake when faith and discipleship are involved, it seems. Each of us is convinced that our way is the Lord’s way, or that God has called us to correct others from their erroneous paths, and so our opinions and preferences become somewhat kin to Holy Writ, and it feels imperative that others must agree with us, must accept our criticism, or else they are not being faithful and obedient.

Of course, there is some truth to that. We are meant to correct and rebuke each other, admonishing each other (see Prov 27:5-6, 17; Luke 17:3; 1 Tim 5:20; 2 Tim 4:2, among others). But what we often forget is that we are meant to rebuke in love. Love is the foundation of the rebuke, love surrounds the rebuke, and love seeks to restore. Love does not seek to score a point, does not seek to undermine and destroy. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet 4:8) – love forgives wrongs.

Love doesn’t mean that we all have to agree with each other, and love doesn’t mean that we don’t consider each other’s decisions with a critical eye. But love does mean that we pause before we comment, whether to each other, or in congregational settings, and it means that we use that pause to consider if we are being critical or we are criticising. After all, we are meant to be filled with the Spirit of love, not a spirit of criticism, and while the difference between the two may be slight, it remains significant. Take a moment to consider if your way is truly the only way; take a moment to consider if you can begin with affirmation, with acknowledgement; take a moment to consider your phrasing; take a moment to reassure the other party that your comment does not negate your love.

May God give each of us the grace to love each other, to rebuke each other in love, and to grow together as disciples in Christ.