Rebuke Requires Relationship

Rebuke Requires Relationship

Neal Pollard

  • A child scolded by an austere stranger may get frightened or bullied, but not persuaded or “reached.” A parent, grandparent, a sibling, or good friend will be much more effective.
  • A church member reprimanded by an aloof elder with none of the skill and instincts of a shepherd will get offended, hurt, and angered, but will likely ignore the admonition. A caring, involved elder, even if what he says is difficult and narrow, will prove much more effective. Jesus makes this clear in John 10:5.
  • A preacher who isolates himself from the members, though golden-tongued and 100% right, will cause rankling and roiling rather than remorse and repentance when dealing with sensitive, “hard” subjects. Yet, a man people know cares about them will be given a hearing on even “hot button” matters delivered in loving conviction. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 makes this clear.
  • A brother or sister bringing a criticism or dispensing blunt advice, who has done nothing to establish rapport and relationship with the object of their censure, will have zero impact for good and most likely widen the distance already existent between them. Galatians 6:1-2 implies one who has worn the yoke with the one approached about the trespass.
  • A “Facebook friend” or social media connection, who does a drive-by, verbal “shooting,” devoid of real life connection and bond, is seen as an obnoxious oaf at best and more likely as an impertinent intruder. That forum is not typically going to work for effective exhortation, especially if the dressing-down comes from one who has established no meaningful link. Remember, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). That’s a real friend; not a virtual one.
  • A neighbor who has taken no time to be a friend or neighborly delivers hollow requests, suggestions, or demands. Without benefit of time and shared experience, this is received as bad manners and bad form. One who takes the time to demonstrate care will be much better heard (cf. Prov. 11:12).
  • A co-worker or schoolmate will be unpersuaded by someone who makes no time for them or takes no time to get to know them but who gets in their business is wasting their time. But, one who proves genuine concern will much more likely get a thoughtful hearing.

It’s just the way we are. We bristle at cold, heartless interference from the seemingly disinterested party. But we are open and receptive to people who take the time to get to know, understand, and care about us. The same thing said the same way will make a big difference, depending on the presence or absence of a relationship. We would do well to strive to build more and better relationships, especially if we desire to help people grow closer to Christ and go to heaven. May we first work on the connection before we attempt the correction.

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Handling Offenses: Talking It Out

Handling Offenses: Talking It Out

Neal Pollard

Would you believe that not everyone always agrees with what I teach and preach?  Of course, I may not always know—at least directly—that someone disagrees with my message.  Yet, my greatest respect is for that brother or sister who has a problem with me and tells me so!  When they address that to me in kindness and love, I am left with much greater admiration for them.  The same respect is reserved for those who handle those occasions when my words or behavior might come across hurtful with gentle directness. Perhaps it is because subtleties like pouting, passive aggression, silence, and withdrawal are easily missed by one so slow of wit as myself.  Perhaps it is because of the great disdain I, and most others, feel for sharp-tongued tactics like gossip and slander.  “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed” (Pr. 27:5). This challenges me to follow such good examples and pursue active peace than passive aggression.

Talking out our problems is a sign of the church understanding the family aspect of its nature.  Happy is the physical family who finds functional ways to work through its problems, knowing that each member is imperfect and prone to do what offends.  The church is no different, though the blood that binds us does not course through our veins but poured forth from the cross of our Savior. Together, we comprise the “house of God” (1 Ti. 3:15).  What a precious relationship, meant to be treasured!

Talking out our problems is the best way to clear up misunderstandings and misperceptions.  It is possible to misjudge the heart, motives, words, and actions of others. Avoiding the problems or persons may work to avoid unpleasant conflict, but it leaves the problem to fester and grow worse.

Talking out our problems is the biblical pattern.  In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus lays out the way to resolve “internal problems” within His body.  To choose a different route is to deviate from the way He has chosen.

Another great proverb says, “He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue” (Pr. 28:23).  May God help me to embrace that truth and pursue it, all while we “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (Rom. 14:19). That does not mean avoiding the unpleasant or saying the difficult.  Some times tackling the unpleasant and difficult is our surest way to “make for peace…”

An Honest Obituary

An Honest Obituary

Neal Pollard

It was the early 1990s, and I, as a green, inexperienced preacher, was asked to do a funeral for a man from the community with no real religious roots.  It was my first funeral for a non-Christian and I went, armed with the knowledge gained from Wendell Winkler’s Preacher And His Work class, prepared to preach to the living neither giving false hope nor crushing the hearts of people I was trying to reach.  I remember standing nervously in the back of this old denominational church building out in the country.  A group of men gathered there, who I later learned were the pall bearers, were talking caustically about someone.  One said he had made a pass at his wife. Another said he had stolen two of his cows the previous week.  He was a good-for-nothing snake in the grass. Honestly, I was now listening very closely.  I was shocked when one said, “If he hadn’t died, I might have killed him.”  They were talking about the deceased, the man whose funeral I was about to preach.  Needless to say, I felt no pressure to “preach him into heaven.”  Five minutes before the funeral, I wrestled with whether or not my words were too plain or off-putting. Five minutes after it, one of those pallbearers told me, “Preacher, you gave him a better funeral than he deserved.”

If you are prone to read obituaries or as you reflect on every funeral you have attended, everyone speaks of every dead person as if they are the most wonderful, saintly individual who has ever lived.  Some, considering the circumstances of the deceased’s lifestyle, brashly speak of them being in heaven even if the one never made mention of or made preparation to go there.  It is a significantly disgusting thing to hear people blithely pronouncing people saved in death who were disobedient to God’s saving plan in life.

A few months ago, the children of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick defied this common trend upon her death. They literally celebrated her passing by publishing a “scathing” obituary in their local Nevada newspaper. The obituary, published in September, 2013, begins, “”On behalf of her children who she abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty and shame that she delivered on her children” (via Newsmax.com).  The article gives details of her horrific abuse of the six children, which abuse she regularly inflicted before she lost custody of them to a Nevada Children’s Home.   While they gave no speculation about her eternal destiny, neither did they sugar-coat or white-wash her life.

Who knows what will be said about us when we die?  However naughty or nice it is matters little next to what our Lord knows and sees. He will “judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1).  He will be the “righteous Judge” (2 Tim. 4:8; Acts 17:31).  He will tell it like it is concerning each of us as we are gathered with all the nations (Mat. 25:31ff).  Heaven keeps, if you will, a perfect, accurate obituary on file for each of us when we die.  The Bible calls it “the Book of Life” and the dead will be “judged according to their works, by the things which [are] written in the books” (Rev. 20:12b).  Let us live so we are not ashamed for that record to be revealed.