January 26, 2011

Christlike Attributes: Reproof (Part 2)


Continued from Part 1

The key to this Christlike attribute is love (like so much of the gospel).

Rebuke, by and of its self, is wrong and damaging. Rebuke, with love and compassion, is a powerful Christlike attribute used to help draw people unto the Savior.

So how exactly do we go about doing this; loving and rebuking? A few scriptures will help us:

“Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2). Notice how this verse teaches that if we rebuke and exhort, it must be accompanied by longsuffering and doctrine. The definition of 'longsuffering' in the 1828 Webster’s dictionary states: “Bearing injuries or provocation for a long time; patient; not easily provoked.” I love the last part, in that we are patient, and not easily provoked. If we are reproving someone, and are easily provoked by our own emotions than we are not reproving and rebuking as the Savior would have us do.

Often, I have found myself reproving someone because they hurt me. I tell them of my feelings so they will be hurt because of how they hurt me. I feel better when they apologize because of the hurt they feel that they caused me. However, if they do not acknowledge my hurt, or feel my hurt, it actually hurts me more (boy that is a lot of hurts). This is the wrong use of this attribute. Reproof without love is just getting mad at someone.

Also, note the importance of doctrine. We must know the truth of what we say, and we must use the scriptures as our basis for rebuke. If we reprove someone because we just think a certain way, not because the Lord teaches us that they have sinned, we cannot truly rebuke them in a Christlike way.

The next scripture: “Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings.” (D&C 108:7). The key here is that we strengthen those we exhort. If we are seeking in any way to put them down, or bring them below us, we are reproving for the wrong reason. Reproof should build and edify. Reproof should lift the person to a height they could not achieve without our words.

As with all Christlike attributes, Satan seeks to imitate the Savior as close as he can, without being exactly like Him (this is his greatest form of deception). He does this because he knows of the power of doing what is right. He will never tell us just to kill someone, he will first make us feel we are justified in our actions, or teach us an almost truth so we will be convinced we are doing the right. The same is the case with this attribute. If Satan can twist reproof by taking away the critical catalyst of love, he can make us think we are doing the right thing, when in reality we are not. If he can make us reprove someone because of our own feelings, instead of our feelings towards them, he has succeeded. If he can get us to reprove someone so we can show our superiority over them, instead of trying to bring them to a higher level, we have sinned, in that we have not drawn them unto Christ.

The last scripture is perhaps the most powerful. Pay close attention to the sequence of the words. “Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.” (D&C 121:43-44). Notice that in order to reprove, we must have two key elements: first, we must only act when we are “moved upon by the Holy Ghost.” This means, that we must be in a state where we can feel the spirit, and we must act in a way during our reproof to help us keep that spirit. If we begin to allow our emotions to control us, then the spirit will flee and we will be left to reprove without the guidance of the Lord.

Second, when we reprove, we MUST show an “increase of love.” If we make someone feel guilt, we must show love. The answer to this may seem obvious, but I still must ask; why is love such an important part? It is because of the power behind love. The effect of love offsets the effect of the rebuke and helps the hearer know of the reason behind the rebuke.

Not only does love offset the rebuke, it also creates a powerful draw. When someone is able to look past your weaknesses, and see your strengths (meager as they may be), you long to be around that person. If that bond is strong enough, when they rebuke you, you will long for that feeling of belonging, unity, and attachment. You will want to change to please them, and you will change so you can continue to be in their presence.

I do not know how many times the Lord has rebuked me, but it is far more than I could ever count. Yet, I cannot think of a single time when I did not feel of an increase of love afterwards. It may not be right after, but the love always, always comes. The Lord practices what He preaches.

I remember numerous occasions where I found myself on my knees after I had sinned. I pled with the Lord for forgiveness. Then, a love beyond compare began to fill my heart. At these moments I often asked how I deserved such love, only to find an even greater increase in love.

Why is it that I seek for forgiveness? Yes, I want to be clean, but I find that more often than not the answer is because I long for that love that I have felt on so many occasions; that love that is stronger than the cords of death. Love that was tried and proven on the cross of Calvary.

Though the scriptures are somewhat void of the “increase of love” after many of the Savior’s rebukes, I feel that this is not because it did not happen, but because the Lord shows His love in such a simple and powerful way that we often do not tie the two events together. Truly He follows His own admonition to do our alms in secret (see Matthew 6:4).

I can testify that the Lord does exactly as He teaches in the scriptures. When the Savior rebukes He is patient and longsuffering, He seeks to edify and build us during these times of reproof, He only acts when He knows it is right and in-line with the doctrine of His Father, and He always, always, always shows an increase in love. A love beyond all comprehension. A love that truly is “stronger than the cords of death.”

May we follow the Savior and do likewise is my prayer.

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