January 24, 2011

Christlike Attributes: Reproof (Part 1)


My sister asked an interesting question this week that sparked my first blog on Christlike attributes. I must say that the attribute of reproof was not on the top of the list when I was thinking of Godly characteristics. Charity, love, patience, hope, and faith were at the top, but my sister’s question made me think twice about who the Savior really is.

Her questions stemmed from the fact that she had been taken advantage of by several friends over the past decade (some even costing her hundreds of dollars). She wanted to be like Christ, so she said nothing to these friends. She just let them continue to be the way they were, and she was always their friend. She never told them of her true feelings. Her reasoning was that Jesus loved all, the harlot, the sinner, the publican, etc. She reasoned that this meant He did not judge them, and continued to be their friend, no matter what they might have done to Him. After all, she told me, "He forgave those who crucified Him; can’t I forgive someone who may take advantage of me?"

Yet, as I thought about it, I realized that though the Lord did love all, He did not stand by silently while other took advantage of Him, or chose not to follow Him. In fact, Christ did not mince His words when it came to calling people out on the things they were doing wrong. One of my favorite examples, because of its powerful imagery, is in Matthew 23:27. He said “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”

Another example is when Christ drove the money changers out of the temple. Jesus did not go in and tolerate things He saw that were wrong. He did not stand back and say “I love you and will forgive you for what you are doing.” Instead after He “made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise” (John 2:15-16). He stood up for what was right. He said what needed to be said. He would not allow people to defile His Father’s Temple.

Perhaps the greatest example of reproof of the Savior is that of His relationship with Peter, the senior apostle of the Lord. Of all those around Him, Peter was the one who perhaps individually received the most rebuke among anyone else in the New Testament.

For example, when Peter attempted to come out on the water, when he saw the Lord walking on the water, he began to sink out of fear and was told “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:26-31). I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could even had made it to the first step on the water part, yet Peter was able to at least make it part way to the Lord.

After being asked who he thought the Savior was, Peter answered with great faith “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Yet this is often where we stop in the story. After Peter testified of the Lord, Jesus “charged them that they should tell no man of him. And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” (Mark 8:30-33). These are strong words for someone who was just told that he was “blessed” (Matthew 16:17).

In addition to the above examples, Peter was also rebuked by the Lord, during the Last Supper because he, Peter, would deny the Savior three times before the night was over (Matthew 26:33-35). Peter was also reproved when he attempted to protect the Lord by cutting off the ear of one of the soldiers when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:10-11). Lastly, after the resurrection of the Savior, Peter was told three times to “feed my sheep” by the Lord. Was once not enough, or was this repetition somewhat of a rebuke because of Peter’s earlier three denials of the Lord (John 21:15-17)?

In each of these incidents, Peter had good intentions. If each example is studied, you will find that Peter was trying to either protect the Lord, or stand up for the Lord (even the three denials stemmed from Peter stating that he would never be offended by the Savior) (Matthew 26:33).

So the question must be asked, why? Why did the Savior treat Peter this way? Why did He call Him "Satan"? Why did He tell him he lacked faith? Why did He not just thank Peter for wanting to never deny Him and not tell Peter that before the night was over he would deny him three times? Was it because the Savior was trying to show His superiority over Peter? Was the Lord trying to show Peter how weak he was? No, the simple answer is, the Master Teacher reproved Peter because He loved him, and because He knew of the power of reproof.

Truly as the Savior said to John the Revelator: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:19-20). If the Lord does not knock (or in essence tell us how to repent), we cannot open the door (or actually repent of those things we do wrong).

I believe that one of the reasons Peter became such an incredible and powerful disciple of Christ, is because he allowed the Savior to rebuke him, AND he followed those rebukes by repenting and changing his life. In due time, Peter became the head of the Church, and the most senior apostle, perhaps the reason is because he was so willing to accept corrections from the Savior. Many others received reproof from the Savior, yet few headed His words like that of Peter.

So the next question to ask is, how? How do we apply this attribute in our life? How do we rebuke someone for their misdeeds, without causing strife in our own hearts towards that person, or causing that person to feel hurt?

To be continued...

2 comments:

  1. Hey Daniel! Just found your blog. What an interesting first post to read. :)

    The other day (a couple of weeks ago?) I was listening to the Mormon Channel on my iPod when a talk came on about a very similar topic. I've probably spent the last 20 minutes trying to find the transcript of it, because I think it's very applicable here, but all I can find is that it was given on the Mormon Channel (radio) on Jan. 11, 2011 at 7:00 am. It's entitled, "Institute of Religion Devotional" which is very, very unhelpful. :) It was originally given October 8, 1982 by Elder Dallin H. Oaks.

    I kind of feel like this post is as unhelpful as the title of that talk now. Haha. I'll keep trying to find a transcript of it, though, and if I do, I'll let you know. It wasn't a definitive talk, more musings of a Supreme Court Justice about how to handle financial disputes. But it was interesting.

    I could tell you what little I remember, but I'm way too long for a comment anyway as is, so let me know if you want more details. :)

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  2. I did a search as well and could not seem to find it. I would enjoy listening to it, but if you can't find it, no worries. Thanks.

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