March 14, 2018

The Beauty of a Rebuke

Gary Thomas — 

Legend has it that in a land far away, many centuries ago, there lived a husband who welcomed his wife’s rebukes. When she challenged him on some weakness in his character, he listened patiently and humbly, thanked her for her loving concern, made her remarks a matter of prayer, and changed his behavior accordingly. Eventually, he became known as “the husband who welcomed his wife’s rebukes.”

Have you heard of that legend?


There’s a reason for that.

It doesn’t exist. It’s too far-fetched.

Except that Proverbs kind of encourages us (men and women alike) in that direction.

Proverbs 12:1 puts this attitude in bold-faced, italicized print: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”

I don’t have to consult the commentaries on this one. The Bible says that if I hate my wife’s loving challenges, I’m stupid.

In fact, it’s even worse. A straight-out translation would call me an “ignoramus.” One commentator says the word “refers to a stupid man who does not have the rationality that differentiates men from animals.”

This is where believing that God designed marriage to make us holy even more than to make us happy (expressed in my book Sacred Marriage) becomes so relevant and practical. Though Proverbs is written primarily to young men, and this instruction is most naturally seen as that between a parent and child, we know from many biblical passages that “growing” our character is a work that is never completed. If I truly desire to grow in holiness. I will, indeed, welcome my spouse’s appropriate rebukes. “Understanding” and “wisdom,” biblically speaking, are something we pursue and attain, not something we’re born with:  “Whoever listens to correction acquires good sense.” Proverbs 15:32

It’s not that I love being rebuked, it’s that I love knowledge and understanding, and reproof is the road I have to travel to get there. My wife can be more objective than I can in seeing what my behavior looks like without me trying to defend myself. The Bible tells me my heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), that I can’t truly know myself. How kind of God to give me a spiritual sister in Christ who can protect me from delusional thinking.

The challenge, of course, is that sometimes I’d prefer to be delusional and comfortable than convicted and unsettled. As long as I remain in this state, I will resent my marriage and the exposure it brings instead of being grateful for it.

Christian husbands and wives are to be more than best friends and lovers. They are brothers and sisters in Christ, helping each other grow in God and righteousness.

One area where I see some wives and husbands struggle with this is when they think they are the more mature believer. The thinking goes, “As long as I’m stronger spiritually than my spouse, he should listen to me but he has no right to challenge me.” This can be especially true if the husband has fallen into a bad habit that the wife has struggled to forgive. As long as he hurt you that way, you (somewhat understandably) drift toward, “Don’t even think about challenging me, given all that I’ve had to forgive you for.”

You’re cutting off a major avenue of growth if you go down that road. If God can use a donkey to speak his truth (Numbers 22:28), he can use a “less mature” spouse. No one is perfect, and our evaluations, such as they are, shouldn’t be with other fallen sinners. The standard is Jesus Christ. When someone, be they ever so immature, can help us become a little more like Jesus, if we are wise we will embrace the correction. If we resent it, according to Proverbs 12:1, we’re stupid (God’s words, not mine!).  

So, here’s a wild date-night idea. In the interest of holiness, what if husband and wife were to go to a nice public place and both ask (and then answer) one question: “What one area do I need to grow in to become more like Christ?” Before you do that, friends, please, read, re-read, and memorize, Proverbs 12:1:  “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”


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7 responses to The Beauty of a Rebuke

  1. This takes me back to thinking about the arguments or ‘Discussions’ I have had with my wife’ and I can recall the resentment I had toward her as I viewed her rebuke as hormonal self righteousness instead of mindful, awakening rebuke to my lack of reasoning. And I do feel stupid for that viewpoint! And since then I have come to take her rebukes as a loving nudge to get me back on focus to what I am supposed to be as a Christian Husband. The devil and the world tried to derail our focus and at times may be successful, but it is our love for our spouse that can guide us back on the path of Christ-like living. Thanks for the thought provoking, focus adjusting Blogs!

  2. The capacity for loving rebuke in a marriage, both from the standpoint of giving and receiving, is often a function of how it was modeled by parents. My parents were very analytical and would often debate issues and ideas for hours. Inevitably, feelings would get hurt and they would spend another hour just working out their emotional issues.

    By contrast, my wife’s parents never argued. If they were mad at each other, one of them would lock themselves in the bedroom and pout for a few hours.

    So you can imagine how my wife handles my rebukes. I don’t receive rebukes very well sometimes but my tendency is to try to defend myself and escalate the argument. On the other hand, my wife can’t handle any rebuke no matter how trivial without snapping back angrily and then shutting down and demanding that the conversation be over.

    We have been married a long time. We have come to an understanding that any confrontation or rebuke has to be done early in the day and it can only be about one subject and it can only involve a conversation that goes no more than 4 minutes. It kinda limits our ability to solve problems, but it avoids creating even worse problems.

  3. A big problem is one spouse having knowledge but lacking the wisdom to discern what is right and wrong. Dr. Henry Cloud’s presentation “The Evil, The Foolish, The Wise” lays it out more succinctly. I welcome advice and concerns. What I don’t like is the fact that the debate goes point, me counter pointing, and then threats up to and including divorce because someone wants things their way. Somewhere in the discussion there is the, “you are to love me like Christ loves the church.” It doesn’t matter if the idea works or will better things or make something more efficient. It’s thinking with feelings and emotions that somehow trump facts and logic. April Cassidy does a mighty fine job explaining what is going on when a lady wants to be in charge: (If You Want to Be in Charge – You Will Have to Protect Yourself).

  4. Love this!!! Jesus is the perfect standard… oh how easy it is to lose site of our Lord in the ordinary everyday stuff as well as in the heart-wrenching and breaking traumas we get to have to deal with from time to time. We are so often blinded by the light as well as the heavy-duty stuff… so I realise again today that it is not about the smoke screens but my focus… “looking into Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith” and not our spouse or the little squabble or the big betrayal. It’s ALL about Jesus!! And that’s why HE’s a strong tower!!! No safety or sanity in anywhere or anyone else.
    Thank you Gary, you always bless & challenge me.

  5. Ouch, that stung more than a little.

  6. So then following up with advice from Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10…

    I am grateful, even boastful, to have so many opportunities to become more like Christ!! Going through Sacred Marriage now, and praying my heart is directed into God’s love and Christ’s perserverance…no matter the cost. Thanks for the reminder Mr Thomas!