Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Severe Rebuke

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All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“Reproof is unavoidable. God’s Word demands it when a brother falls into open sin. The practice of discipline in the congregation begins in the smallest circles. Where defection from God’s Word in doctrine or life imperils the family fellowship and with it the whole congregation, the word of admonition and rebuke must be ventured. Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin. It is a ministry of mercy, an ultimate offer of genuine fellowship, when we allow nothing but God’s Word to stand between us, judging and succoring. Then it is not we who are judg­ing; God alone judges, and God’s judgment is helpful and healing. Ultimately, we have no charge but to serve our brother, never to set ourselves above him, and we serve him even when we must speak the judging and dividing Word of God to him, even when, in obedience to God, we must break off fellowship with him. We must know that it is not our human love which makes us loyal to the other per­son, but God’s love which breaks its way through to him only through judgment. Just because God’s Word judges, it serves the person.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (New York: Harper One, 1954) 107.

Some of you may be thinking that this compassion journey is messy and too hard. That may be true. But sit in the reality of this idea for a minute. “Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.”

The Apostle Paul taught us that Scripture is good for corrective purposes so that we fulfill our calling which is to be thoroughly equipped for every good work. That’s generosity. Though we live in a world that disdains confrontation, rebuke is a good thing as it puts us back on track.

Ministry in India is going well. Today, at one point I thought the teaching might sound like rebuke so I prayed for God to fill me with love. Then I read some Scriptures. The Spirit moved, like a revival broke out. Rebuke, though hard, can be generous and compassionate service.