Correcting other people’s error is a very delicate matter and requires a great deal of maturity and experience to handle. It is just like handling uranium, you don’t leave it to everyday people to handle, not even to those who know how dangerous the substance can be. In such a delicate matter, it is best to leave it to those who are better trained, experienced and more importantly, better equipped to handle such hazardous materials.
Handling other people’s error is no different. You must know the ethics involved and the decorum required.
For instance, you must put under consideration that the people you intend to correct are Another Man’s servant, not yours (they are the Lord’s). They were called by God, not by you. When you fail to recognize this, you already disqualify yourself from being able to correct those people. Isn’t that what the Lord was trying to teach us when He said if you must pass judgement on another you must first remove the LOG of wood from your eyes so that you can see well enough to be able to remove the speck of dust from your neighbour’s eyes? That means, to God, decorum in judgement (or better still, in correction) is more important than the correction itself. You know why? Decorum speaks of character, of conduct, and of principle, but corrections are primarily about knowledge and doctrine. Every time these two are weighed in a balance, character and conduct always trumps doctrine and knowledge.
So sometimes, it’s best to leave an erring brother/sister to his or her mistakes. In God’s own way and time, He will address their errors. So, you see, it takes a high level of maturity to handle a sensitive issue like correcting doctrinal errors.
Then there are the irredeemable lots, we call them Pharisees. Never offer direct correction to Pharisees, always direct your message to the people, if the Pharisees care to heed you, they would heed your address to the people. Pharisees seek attention and will drain your energy in arguments. They will hardly change their position, so don’t waste your time on them.
There are those who don’t believe any situation or person is irredeemable, if you are part of that lot, then you must not have read about Pharisees in your bible neither have you read 1 John 5:16-17.
On another note, approach, attitude and timing are important.
Concerning these, the scriptures admonishes that ,
“a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will”.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 NKJV
From the above scripture, certain points can be gleaned;
- We are to be gentle. To be gentle is to be driven by love not ego, and definitely not by a desire to have the last say.
- We must be able to teach. A good teacher is not only grounded in truth but able to communicate well. He takes complex things and makes them simple.
A good teacher must also have the right approach, which is to confront principles not personalities.
If you can recall, that’s how the prophet succeeded in rebuking King David. He told him of how a rich man took advantage of a poor man, then he asked King David his opinion of the situation. David saw only principles (and not personalities) so he could make an unbiased judgment. Then, and only after then, did Nathan reveal the personality of the culprit in his story as the king himself. Had Nathan began with personalities, the King would have become defensive and the prophet would have only succeeded in arousing the wrath of the King.
- We must be patient and wait for the appropriate time to deliver a correction.
If you try to correct someone in public, you do the person a great disservice. It will only make the person defensive instead of receptive. Wait for the perfect time and address the errors.
- Our priority should never be to appear correct, but to see that the other person gets it right (See 2 Corinthians 13:7-8). That means we should not mind if the person we are correcting comes to the knowledge of truth through us but ends up thinking they did it all by themselves. In other words, we don’t care who gets the credit for giving those corrections.
Finally, if you forget anything, don’t forget this advice of one Matthew I met on Facebook;
Your motive for correcting the Lord’s children shouldn’t be set on your perceived relevance or knowledge status, rather, let it be driven by a love for the truth and the patience it takes to communicate it.