The Right Way to Bring Correction
Once, a young man approached me at my resource table after a meeting. He smiled as he came up to me and said, “Like you, I’m called to speak prophetically, bringing correction to the church.”
Something about the way he said this made me feel uncomfortable. I sensed he wanted to tell people off more than he had genuine concern for their welfare. So I asked him, “Do you want to know the secret to speaking prophetically?” He lit up, anticipating a tip for successful ministry.
“The entire time you bring a corrective or challenging word,” I said, “you must absolutely love the people you are addressing.”
The young man looked at me with a stunned expression. After a few moments he responded, “I think God has some work to do in me.” I was proud of him for admitting it.
As a minister, I have wrestled with the need to share confronting messages. It’s easy to fall into one of two extremes: speaking truth harshly or avoiding confrontation out of a desire to stay positive.
I love people dearly, I love the church, and I love God’s leaders. When I find myself needing to speak correctively, my heart aches because I want to encourage and affirm. But on the other hand, I know that true love doesn’t flatter. It’s truthful. It speaks what is needed to bring health to the hearers.
Perhaps you too struggle to know when and how to address something with someone God has placed in your life. It may be within a church or organization you lead or among your family and friends—whatever the setting, raising a sensitive concern is hard. Here’s what Paul has to say about it:
…We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. -Ephesians 4:15 NLT
Speaking the truth in love causes the hearers to grow and mature in Christ. That’s well worth the discomfort of having a hard conversation. But please do notice the words “in love.” The Bible doesn’t tell us to speak truth in anger or self-righteousness—only in love.
When we bring correction in a mean-spirited way, we demonstrate a lack of compassion for those we address. That’s so tragic and costly. All of us must be motivated, moved, and even consumed with love when we speak into someone’s life, or we should not speak at all.
As God’s children, let’s never speak with an attitude that “I told you so” or “I know more than you” or “I’m better than you.” Instead, let’s communicate truth fervently, wanting the best for those around us.
This week, I encourage you to meditate on Paul’s instruction to the Philippians:
…Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. -Philippians 2:3–4 NLT
Ask God to help you walk with this spirit in every sphere of your life. When you learn to carry truth with a humble attitude of love, you’ll become an influence who helps others grow in the likeness of Jesus.