How to give correction, lovingly
No one likes a phony, especially when we are on the receiving end of correction.
When presented with correction, our human nature will begin to build a defense any way that it can. We justify our understanding, we make excuses for any gaps, and – if possible – we challenge the credibility of the messenger.
Because – we rationalize – if the person correcting us can be shown to be deficient, then we feel justified in not heeding their correction.
So does this mean we must have our lives perfectly put together before we can rebuke anyone? Of course not. However, those of us who lead know how difficult it can be for correction to be received and implemented…and how even more difficult it is to prompt a change in behavior when our own actions need some work.
Throughout his letter, Paul is mentors and advises Timothy on how those in charge in the church are supposed to lead and live. Paul knows that it is not enough for a leader to just “go through the motions”. So in addition to discussing what a leader is supposed to do, Paul also points out how they are to do these things, as well as their motivation of character behind doing them.
So when it comes to correcting error, take a look at where Paul tells Timothy he should be coming from:
1 Timothy 1:3-5
As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach other doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith.
Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
This love is the agape love, which is a ‘give-all’ kind of love that one has for the benefit of others. This is the kind of love that God shows us; and in the context of giving correction, it is the kind of love Timothy is to have for his fellow believers who are messing around with bad teachings.
The goal of Timothy’s instruction is to show love to those he is correcting and that they will accept the correction, change their focus back to God’s plan, and also participate in the same agape love.
But this is where character matters.
Timothy could say “I’m correcting you because I love you” and still be a total jerk about it.
Timothy could say “I’m telling you this because I love you” and be a hypocrite.
Timothy could say “I’m commanding you to stop because you’re wrong and I’m in charge”.
In each of these situations, Timothy would be right – they need to be corrected – but he would have a difficult time convincing his fellow believer that change is necessary.
When we own ‘our stuff’, it is much easier to lovingly comment on ‘other people’s stuff’. This applies to everyone, but especially those of us in leadership positions – at church, at work, or in the home. Let’s take steps to keep our hearts pure, our conscience clear, and our faith sincere…and then love others accordingly, especially when they need correction.