I recently had occasion to rebuke an evangelical pastor and demand that he apologize to the person to whom he was talking. I thought he was using tricks of argument to prove his point. Below are some thoughts on the issue. Some of my arguments are self serving but sift through it for the good stuff.
Rules for the Rebuker – in no particular order
1) Have your ducks in a row, for your own sake. This is another way of saying to take your time before making an issue of something. If you act rashly I hope you are right because it can be very embarrassing.
On the other hand being embarrassed once in a while and having to apologize is not a bad thing. We are Christians, confessing our sins and asking forgiveness is what we do. It is good to stay in practice.
2) Do not do it on your own behalf. If you rebuke a brother who has offended you, you may be too angry to do a good job so it is good to decide in advance that you will let someone else defend you.
On the other hand, from experience I can tell you that the major problem with this rule is that seeing a brother behave badly toward someone else (or the church) can still make you very angry. Another problem is that there are times when it is necessary to speak on ones own behalf. Not as many as there seems to be but some times still.
3) Do not accept reciprocal rebuking. That is for later. The first reaction of a person when they are attacked is to attack back. Rebuking someone when they are rebuking you is the wrong time, and vice versa. None of us are perfect.
On the other hand don’t let your rebuke be an attack lest a friend of the person whom you are rebuking comes to their defense. A good rule is that an attack is against the person and a rebuke is against the behavior.
4) It is okay to hold leaders to a higher standard than the laity. It may seem like an unfairness but it is an unfairness that God endorses. If you are a leader then tough, remember what President Roosevelt said about the kitchen.
On the other hand by rebuking a leader you become one. You are a leader of a leader so to speak. It is now fair for others to hold you to a higher standard. It is wrong for people to turn on you, the rebuker, right then,(thought they probably will) but later, don’t be surprised if people start expecting a better game from you. That is okay. If you care enough to rebuke someone for bad behavior then you should and probably do welcome the push of higher expectations. Think of athletes – the good ones always relish being driven.
5) Be wise enough to separate the important from the exportant or the domesticant which ever is the opposite of important? (humor me)
On the other hand don’t wait for wisdom before you speak up. None of us will ever be wise enough and thus nothing will ever be said. If you think you are right but you are wrong then so what? You are in good company. If you think you are right and then become convinced that you are wrong and then later you realize that you were right all along, so what? You are in good company. And if you think you are right and then … you get the idea.
6) Of yeah. The first rebuke should really be in private. This may come as a surprise but Facebook comments are not private. I just made this mistake. I’m sorry, please forgive me.
On the other hand: can’t think of one.
Rules for the Rebukee –
1. Take your lumps. We are followers of Christ. Christ himself was accused unfairly and he hardly said a thing in his defense. No matter how innocent you may think you are you are not as innocent as Christ. Take it, learn from it. You will either learn a little or a lot. If you learn nothing then I hope you really were as innocent as Christ. I know it’s hard.
2. Apologize quickly. If you are wrong admit you are wrong. If you don’t see the criticism as being legitimate then promise to think about it and do so. Ask for more explanation.
3. If the criticism requires a response, respond in writing and wait a couple of days before writing.