Letting Go of Rebuke and Embracing Love

By Shane Runnels

In 2013, a woman named Miley Cyrus came out to the world about her sexual appetites culminating in the release of her hit song “Wrecking Ball.” Needless to say, the entire church had a field day. She was the talk of the Body, after the Body got a good look at hers in that video. Most of the remarks made were remarks of disgust and condemnation. Open letters that she would never read came out, and rebuke ensued. It’s likely that these open letters were never written to inspire her to change, but rather to grow the writer’s own selfish platform. I have to be completely honest here; I myself was a bit disgusted by the scene of this young girl giving herself away until one day, Jesus asked me to listen to her song. I did as He said.

That day, I listened to the song continually and the Lord spoke to me over and over again, revealing His heart for her. And coincidentally, His words were vastly different than those who were slandering Her. My heart was flooded with words of life and encouragement. I was warmly and lovingly rebuked by her Maker – her Designer. Holy Spirit completely renewed my mind to the point that I could never look at her the same way again. The fact of the matter is that the world will be the world, and it is not my business to change it. That’s God’s business. My stock in trade is to present the Gospel in all of its beauty. That day I decided to never slander those outside of the Church. I would only speak life over them and declare God’s heart for His creation.

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” 1 Corinthians 5:12 NIV

So, what of those within the Church? Are we not to judge those inside? Are we not to rebuke? What about those money grubbin’ prosperity preachers? We’re surely supposed to rebuke them right? It seems as if the Body that I love and adore finds a plethora of reasons to harbor and manifest bitterness and justify it by calling it a rebuke. “They’re wrong, and I’m right because God says so.” The Bible is the crutch that justifies them. It’s as if the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t matter anymore when we’re talking about doctrinal differences. My favorite target of the heresy hunters is Joel Osteen. So, I’ll be using him as my main example of probably the most verbally persecuted pastor in the West.

The goal of this article is not that you’ll agree with everyone, but that you’ll see what the Father sees, and embrace honor and love. Let’s say that Joel is in some form of sin, which to my knowledge, he’s never even been accused of any scandal. But, let’s just say that he is. What is the biblical approach to correcting him?

Jesus gives this discourse in Matthew 18:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17 ESV

This is really the only teaching about formal rebuke, and pay heed to Christ’s words “against you.” This section is not just about your brother being in sin, but it is about him sinning against you personally. So, these verses can’t even be used in the context of Osteen. If you’re reading this, then it’s likely that you’ve never even met the guy. The key word here is relationship. We have the full right to bring correction to those that we are in relationship with, but to use verses from the New Testament to publically slander those that you disagree with is not only a false exegesis, but it’s also going to ruin your witness. Basically, you can’t be trusted. I know you’ve posted article after article from your self-appointed platform accusing those of being in the wrong, but condemnation is a good sign that it’s you who is truly in the wrong. Jesus asked the woman caught in adultery, “Where are your accusers?” Jesus then declares, after it is revealed that all of the woman’s condemners have already left the room, “neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11). This is the perfect time for Him to throw stones, yet He chooses the high road. To condemn those that you find fault in is sin. Plain and simple. Cut and dry.

Now, you may make the argument,”I’m not condemning them. I’m just preaching the Bible.” I would plead with you to stop. The Bible is not a justification for sinning against those that you’ve never even met. Let me ask you a question. How much time have you spent listening to Joel Osteen? How much research on his life and ministry have you done? How many times have you prayed for his ministry? How many times have you prayed for him? How much money have you sowed into his ministry? How many conversations have you had with his congregants? How many testimonies from his congregants have you listened to?

Listen, Planet Earth, whether these ministers that you don’t like have evil intentions or not, let’s emulate Paul when he spoke about the ministers that he wasn’t too sure about:

“But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.” Philippians 1:18 NIV

Paul saw something that many of us are refusing to see. Paul saw the importance of honor and love. He begins every letter, even his letters of rebuke, with “Grace and Peace to you.” Let us stop dishonoring those that we know nothing about. Let us see what God sees, and speak life. Let us honor and embrace what true love is, as God whispers this savory line to Paul:

“Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight! Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 The Voice

In the same section, the Amplified translation says that love “is ever ready to believe the best of every person” (v. 7 AMP). Let us believe the best!

Jesus, show us what is unseen. Show us what it means to honor and love everyone, within and without disagreements. Jesus, show us how to love, and teach us discernment.

May God’s love embrace you.

Ecstatic Life Shane Runnels

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