There are a lot of people out there who take it upon themselves to dish out rebuke in the name of the Lord. I understand the impulse—I really do. However, if it isn’t something the Lord actually places on our hearts, but instead comes from our own imagination or feelings, then we can get into a lot of trouble.
I’ve done this, so as I said, I get it. It can be hard to deal with people who take the Lord’s name in vain or degrade the integrity of Christendom. It can be hard to know how to handle situations where we ourselves or others have been wronged. One thing I’ve learned is this: if we do not have love, our words are not from the Lord—and it is we who need the rebuke first and foremost. That being said, there is a kind of “tough love” that is necessary, but if we don’t have the wisdom, or if we are (as I mentioned) speaking things out of our own hearts, then it’s likely that we are not doing the work of God—but instead, we are pleasing ourselves.
We are NOT Old Testament Prophets
I’ve noticed how many use the OT prophesies (as I have) to correct people today. Many also like to draw parallels between themselves and Moses or Elijah in particular–not necessary, people. Such vanities do not become us. I’ve also seen how many have the same kind of harshness and sharpness that we might find from Isaiah or some other—and it just feels wrong often times. Why? What makes them seem false or like something is missing? Should those who speak for God today be similar in approach as the prophets of old, or is something different here?
This lead me to asking the Lord a question: What is the difference between the Old Testament prophets and the true prophets of today?
I believe the answer is simple. It’s the love of Jesus Christ.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3
Before Jesus, things were different. The people of God were under the law, so they were treated as such. Before Jesus, we did not have any real means for having our hard hearts changed. They knew what satisfied God in part, but a lot was missing. A lot of love was missing. We see this in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). The laws of the kingdom of God are vastly more complex than the OT laws because they require us to love in a manner that is beyond natural human nature.
The people who follow God in truth today are growing in the things of love first and foremost, so those who the Lord truly speaks through would not be as the OT prophets exactly. They should have a better understanding of what pleases God then they. Consider this: Jesus said that John the Baptist was the greatest of the prophets up until that time, but whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
That being said, I am not by any means degrading OT prophets. All they said still rings true because it is the word of God, and there is a lot we can learn from them. However, I do believe those today would be different in approach as ministers of the new covenant rather than the old. That, and “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy.” I have ideas about what that means, but I cannot say for sure, so I won’t.
Real Rebuke from The Lord is Tempered with Love
There are countless ministers, teachers, and so-called Christian prophets today who think they have the right—or even the obligation—to tell us what we are doing wrong. Yet, they forget the single most important commandment of God themselves: Love.
There are things we know now that was not known then—things that greatly affect key aspects of love like mercy, forgiveness, patience, judgement, and faith. Ideas like “what do you have that you did not receive?” “do not despise the longsuffering of the Lord that leads us to repentance,” “rebuke in the spirit of meekness,” “love your enemy,” and so on. Yet, who adheres to these things?
There Is Mercy for False Prophets and Teachers If We Repent
We all want to have a place in this world, and if we have any love for the Lord we will want a place in his kingdom too. However, we cannot take any aspect of the kingdom by force. We cannot set ourselves up to do a work He has not given us to do and avoid consequence. If we are are hateful, prideful, arrogant, self-righteous, and “wise in our own eyes,” pushing “vain imaginings” and the like, we need to stop. We need to be simple concerning all evil—this counts too.
We also need to understand that we cannot take the righteousness of the kingdom by force. It has to be given, so if you struggle with this, turn to Jesus. His mercy is unlimited and his promises unwavering. If you seek deliverance, you will find it.
Don’t Let Them Cause You to Lose Faith
If you are one who has been wrongly discouraged by such people, then my hope would be that you will remember that Jesus is stern against wickedness, but he is also merciful towards those who want to do what is right. Keep seeking him and let no man cause your faith to fail. You might recall what Jesus said of those who cause his little ones to stumble: “it would be better that a mill stone were hung around their neck and they were cast into the sea.” The Lord watches out for his flock.
Sharpness is necessary only when it is necessary. Even in this, I can temper this with empathy and patience because I have also done these things at times. I have been hateful in my judgments, all the while thinking I was in the right and telling others what they needed to hear. I have been a clanging gong and noisy cymbal—and Jesus was merciful and will continue to be merciful towards me. He can do the same for all who seek him.