Timely Words: Do I Have the Right to Speak?

From God’s perspective, we all have the right to address one another regarding sin and holiness. Here, however, I’m referring to that “right” (and using the term loosely) as it is perceived by the person being spoken to. Sometimes words of correction are untimely and ineffective simply because the recipient believes the giver has not earned the right to speak them. This takes discernment by the person who would do the speaking. Here are some factors to consider.

A word of correction is more likely to be received if the recipient is spiritually mature. He or she will know that God wants us to correct one another graciously, and can speak correction through even a donkey when necessary (Numbers 22:28).

A word of correction is more likely to be received if the giver is seen as spiritually mature. This does not necessarily make that person’s advice more valid, but it lowers the “bar of acceptance” when the speaker is easier to respect. David could receive a very strong word of correction from Nathan, the faithful and proven prophet of God.

A word of correction is more likely to be received if the giver and receiver have an established relationship of trust. Once we have confessed sin to a fellow Christian in obedience to James 5:16, it gets easier to continue on that path of being open and honest, about our own sin and our observations of one another. The stronger the relationship, the stronger the word that can be given constructively.

A word of correction is more likely to be received if the giver has sought permission to present it. There is something wonderfully disarming about asking someone if you can share an observation. This places you in a position of humility and suggests a desire to serve the other person, not to nail them with a “gotcha!”

A word of correction is more likely to be received if it has been asked for. This is the best open door of all. Few things would do more to promote sanctification among your friends, family, and fellow church members than if people began genuinely to invite the humble observations of others.

Excerpted from A Proverbs Driven Life by Anthony Selvaggio

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