Over and over we teach people to follow the examples of Herod and Herodias, of Ahab and Jezebel, of practically every evil king ever mentioned in the Bible. We teach that example and we follow it ourselves. The examples of Simon and David are left ignored, at least in that one area. What am I talking about? How to accept correction, how to appreciate the one who loves us enough to rebuke us or try to teach us better.
What did Simon the sorcerer say when Peter rebuked him? “Pray for me that none of the things that you have spoken may come upon me.” Simon was only interested in being right before God, not in saving face or somehow turning the rebuke back on Peter because he was so angry or hurt by it.
What did David say when Nathan stung him with the simple words “Thou art the man,” and followed it with a horrifying list of punishments, including the death of a child? “I have sinned against the Lord.” And what did he do later? He named a son after Nathan (1 Chron 3:5). Every time he saw that child for the rest of his life, he was reminded of his namesake, the man who rebuked him and prophesied such devastating punishment. All you have to do is read his penitent psalms to understand David’s attitude. He was grateful to Nathan, not angry; heartbroken over his sin and joyful that God would even consider forgiving him.
Simon and David set the bar high for us, a brand new Gentile convert and a king who could have lopped off his accuser’s head at a word. Yet how often are we counseled to follow their examples? Instead, we are coddled by people who blame the rebuker for being so hard. Never have I heard anyone say the kinds of things that Peter and Nathan said. “Your money perish with you.” “You are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.” “Your heart is not right before God.” “You have despised the word of God.”
What examples do we teach instead? We may not throw people into prison for their words as Ahab and Herod did, but we isolate them from others by spreading tales of “how mean they were to me,” allowing their name and reputation to be chewed up in the rumor mills. We may not have them murdered as Herodias and Jezebel did, but we do a fine job of character assassination. We follow faithfully in their evil steps and teach others to do the same when we pat them on the back and agree with their assessment of the one who dared tell them they were wrong. In other words, we do it out of “love.” I imagine Herod said the same as he turned the prison key on John, and then signed off on the death warrant.
Why is this example of how to accept correction so neglected? Why do we reinforce the examples of evil people instead? Is it because someday it might be us receiving that rebuke? Someday it might be our turn to feel the hot embarrassment spreading like a fire across our faces and the acid churning in our stomachs?
God meant us to love each other in exactly this way. Brethren, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, looking to yourself lest you also be tempted, Gal 6:1. We all take turns at this. We all need it. And I have an important piece of information for you, one that should be obvious but apparently is not: it never feels “gentle” when you are on the receiving end. I have knocked myself out prefacing correction with “I love you” statements, with praise for the good in a person’s life, only to have to endure a cold shoulder for weeks or months or even years, only to hear later from others how “mean” I was. I have also felt that sting of conscience when it was my turn to listen, and even when I knew the person speaking loved me. But the good God meant to come from these things will be completely lost if all we do is tell the erring brother or sister that it’s just fine to be like Herod and Herodias.
So you think this isn’t false doctrine? Then tell me what it is to teach others to be like evil men and women. Whatever you come up with, it still isn’t right.
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20.