Affirmation & Rebuke

What is affirmation? Affirmation is a statement of fact about others or their achievement. In other words, you can affirm people for

  • who they are

    Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him,
    "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!"
    John 1:49
  • what they had achieved

    I thank my God in all my remembrance of you ...
    in view of your participation in the gospel
    from the first day until now.
    Phil. 1:3,5
You can also affirm others for their efforts ... their willingness to try ... their potential in the future.

"I also say to you that you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build My church;
and the gates of Hades will not overpower it ..."
Matt. 16:18
Everyone needs affirmation

Once when I was discouraged and depressed, I went through kind words that others had written to me ... for some encouragement and affirmation. Everyone needs affirmation.

Why donít we affirm others?

If everyone needs affirmation then why don't we affirm others as often as they need it? We don't affirm others because we are ...

  • too self-centered.
  • not sensitive to the needs of others.
  • too busy to bother/care.
  • not use to or comfortable with affirming others.
  • jealous of others so why would we affirm them.
  • of the view that affirming others rob God of the honour.
How do we affirm others?
  • in writing
  • in person ... face-to-face
  • in kind ... with a gift
  • to others

    For example, in his letter to Timothy, Paul affirmed Onesiphorus

    The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus,
    for he often refreshed me
    and was not ashamed of my chains;

    but when he was in Rome,
    he eagerly searched for me and found me --

    the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day --
    and you (Timothy) know very well
    what services he (Onesiphorus) rendered at Ephesus.
    2 Tim 1:16-18
What does it mean to "rebuke" someone?

To rebuke someone is to reprimand someone, to tell what's wrong with that person's words and/or actions with the hope that the person will make an effort to change.

The reason why you rebuke someone is because you love him/her (2 Cor. 2:4) and the goal is that the person will learn and grow.

Why donít we rebuke others?

If rebuking someone can potentially bring about good in the person then why don't we rebuke? We don't rebuke others because we are ...

  • not use to it ... the approach is too direct for some cultures

  • of the view that we ourselves are not perfect

    We are familiar with Matt. 7:1-5 but let's read it again ...
    "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye,
    but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

    Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,'
    and behold, the log is in your own eye?

    "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
    and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
    Matt. 7:3-5
    Jesus knows that we are not perfect; He did not say don't go (and rebuke) because there is a log in our own eye! Rather we are to first remove that log and then go ... we are not to judge hypocritically or self-righteously.

    Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass,
    you who are spiritual,
    restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness;
    each one looking to yourself,
    so that you too will not be tempted.
    Gal. 6:1
    Recognising that we ourselves are vulnerable, we are to rebuke charitably and in gentleness.

  • afraid of angry response, rejection or misunderstanding

    We are not in control of the person's response and therefore should not be accountable for it. But if you see a problem in a person's life then we are responsible for that knowledge. What will you do with it? Do you care enough for that person to confront and rebuke him?
    My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth
    and one turns him back,
    let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way
    will save his soul from death
    and will cover a multitude of sins.
    Jas. 5:19-20
    He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
    And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.

    Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
    Reprove a wise man and he will love you.

    Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
    Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
    Prov. 9:7-9
How do we rebuke someone?

  • Check our motives that our true concern is for that person (cf Matt. 7:3-5)

  • Go to that person in private

    If your brother sins,
    go and show him his fault in private;
    if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
    Matt. 18:15
  • Go in a spirit of gentleness recognising that we ourselves are vulnerable (Gal. 6:1)

What if the rebuke is rejected?
But if he does not listen to you,
take one or two more with you,
Matt. 18:16
  1. Go again with 2 or 3 witnesses

    Matt. 18:16 also establishes another guideline - you should have two or three ready witnesses to confirm the truth of the matter; in other words, the issue at hand is not based on isolated example or hearsay (cf 1 Tim. 5:19-20).

  2. If he still does not heed then simply back off

    Allow matters to take their natural course. In other words, let consequences be the teacher.

© February 2005, Alan S.L. Wong