How does it feel to be rebuked? Not pleasant, I’m sure you’ll agree. A friend once asked me how I responded to criticism. I replied that I handled it rather well. He begged to disagree, and he was right. I was talking about how I reacted publicly (with dignity, restraint) – he was referring to what was going on inside me (panic, fear). It was a valuable and insightful conversation.
The blind man in Luke 18 felt the full fury of a rebuking crowd, “Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”” (Luke 18:39 NIV11) I wonder what it was that caused him to respond with louder shouts instead shutting up? The “calling out” of verse 38 has become a shout. The Greek word for shout is, ‘krazo’ (v.39) and is more dynamic than ‘boao’ (v.38). “Such shouting can be in hostility, anguish, joyful elation, or urgent authoritative testimony”.¹
He swam against the crowd-current. Peer pressure was ineffective in preventing this poor man’s perseverance. He looked wrong, but was right. He sounded wrong, but spoke sense. What drove him on?
Of course, we can point to his desperate need for a solution to his blindness. We can speculate about his life challenges. They were undoubtedly many and various. But, even then, there are many people who would buckle under the weight of numbers and public rebuke. What do we do when we are rebuked? How do we respond when we know the rebuke to be wrong?
This short article cannot address all the associated issues, but here are some thoughts that arise from this situation in Luke 18. We’ll approach them by asking two questions.
- If I accept and act on this rebuke will it take me nearer to Jesus, or further away? We all need to be nearer to Jesus, don’t we? Are the people around you taking you closer to him, or further away? I’ve been reading my 1974 schoolboy diaries. In one particular week I went to two church choir rehearsals, two church services (on the same day), one Sunday school class (also on the same Sunday) and two confirmation classes. I’m so glad neither my parents nor anyone else rebuked me for so much exposure to Jesus.
- If I accept and act on this rebuke will it prevent me from receiving help with something I genuinely need? A clue as to how much we should listen to someone rebuking us is to consider whether they are qualified to stand in the way of our need being met. The crowd were seeing, the beggar was blind. It’s all very well for them to rebuke the man, but they don’t have the same need as him. It’s a bit rich, such a rebuke coming from a group of people who are just fine thank you very much!
Some rebukes are right, and some are wrong. Our emotional response is not the best guide as to which is which. If, however, the rebuker is preventing you from moving closer to Jesus and/or standing in the way of your needs being met, then go with the blind man and ‘shout’ all the louder. Jesus will hear. And he will accept you.
What are your thoughts on the best way to evaluate a rebuke? And what are your opinions on how to respond to an inappropriate rebuke? I’d like your ideas, since I’m preaching on this passage soon (2 April, 10.30AM, Laurance Haines School, Watford).
More on this passage in the coming days.
¹ Mounce, William D., D. Matthew Smith, and Miles V. Van Pelt, eds. MED. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.3. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.