Is Your Rebuke for Revenge or Restoration?

Assuming that there is no distorting lens corrupting our judgment, and that the offense is palpable when seen through cool and simple sight, what then should be our course? “Rebuke him.” Well, that would be pleasant enough. It is an exercise which provides a feast for the majority of people, and we set about it with rare satisfaction. But there are rebukes and rebukes. There is a rebuke which is only intended to satisfy the offended, and there is a rebuke which is purposed to rectify the offender. A legitimate rebuke is more than a vent for passion — it is a minister of redemption. It is intended to do more than work off my spleen; it is purposed to remove my brother’s defilement. It is to be used not so much for the relief of my wound, but for the healing of his. The wound of the offended is clean, and time will most surely heal it. But the wound of the offender is unclean, and it may easily fester into something worse. And therefore I say the primary purpose of a rebuke is not to gratify my temper, but to help my brother to recover his broken health.

Now, we may quite easily ascertain whether our rebuke has been of the kind counseled by the Master, a medicated kind, and the test is to be found in whether we are prepared to go further with our Lord. “If he repent, forgive him.” If our rebuke has been healthy and wholesome, we shall be quite ready to take the further step as soon as occasion offers. The fine aim and trend of all Christian rebuke is ultimate reconciliation. A rebuke is not an instrument of punishment; it is an instrument of adjustment. It is not penal, but surgical, and always and everywhere it is purposed to be a minister of moral and spiritual restoration. To put the matter in a word, in all the offenses we suffer, our after-conduct should seek the moral recovery of the offender.

J. H. Jowett, Things That Matter Most