Gentleness in rebuke

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5)

"Simon, son of John — do you truly love me?" — (John 21:15)

No word here of the erring disciple's past faithlessness — his guilty cowardice, his base denial, his oaths and curses, and treacherous desertion — all are unmentioned! The memory of a threefold denial is suggested, and no more, by the threefold question of unutterable tenderness, "Simon, son of John — do you truly love me?"

When Jesus found His disciples sleeping at the gate of Gethsemane, He rebukes them; but how is the rebuke disarmed of its poignancy by the merciful apology which is added — "The spirit indeed is willing — but the flesh is weak!" How different from their unkind insinuation regarding Him, when, in the vessel or Tiberias, "He was asleep""Master, don't you care that we perish!"

The woman of Samaria is full of worldliness, carnality, sectarianism, sin — yet how gently the Savior speaks to her! How forbearingly — yet faithfully, He directs the arrow of conviction to that seared and hardened conscience, until He lays it bleeding at His feet! Truly, "He will not break the bruised reed — He will not quench the smoking flax" (Isaiah 42:3). By "the goodness of God," He would lead to repentance. When others are speaking of merciless violence, He can dismiss the most guilty of profligates with the words "Neither do I condemn you — go, and sin no more."

How many have an unholy pleasure in discovering a brother's faults — blazing abroad his failings; administering rebuke, not in gentle forbearance and kindly admonition — but with harsh and impatient severity! How beautifully did Jesus unite intense sensibility to sin — along with tenderest compassion for the sinner, showing in this that "He know’s our frame!" (Psalm 103:14). Many a sinner needs gentleness in chastisement. The reverse would crush a sensitive spirit, or drive it to despair.

Jesus tenderly "considers" the case of those He disciplines, "tempering the wind to the shorn lamb." In the picture of the good shepherd bearing home the wandering sheep, He illustrated by parable, what He had often and again taught by His own example. No word of needless harshness or upbraiding uttered to the erring wanderer! Ingratitude is too deeply felt, to need rebuke. In silent love, "He lays it on His shoulders rejoicing."

Reader! Seek to mingle gentleness in all your rebukes; bear with the infirmities of others; make allowance for constitutional frailties; never say harsh things, if kind things will do as well; do not unnecessarily lacerate with recalling former delinquencies. In reproving another — let us rather feel how much we need reproof ourselves. "Consider yourself," is a searching Scripture motto for dealing with an erring brother. Remember your Lord's method of silencing fierce accusation — "Let him that is without sin cast the first stone."

Moreover, anger and severity are not the successful means of reclaiming the backslider, or of melting the obdurate. Like the smooth stones with which David smote Goliath — gentle rebukes are generally the most powerful. The old fable of the traveler and his cloak has a moral here as in other things. The warm sunshine will effect its removal — sooner than the rough tempest. It was said of Leighton, that "he rebuked faults so mildly, that they were never repeated, not because the admonished were afraid — but ashamed to do so.”


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