Be honest with yourself! Do you actually like to be corrected? Hardly anyone does. Receiving correction in the right attitude is one of life's most difficult responsibilities. But a truly converted Christian should like — and even welcome — correction. It helps him or her grow. It's easy, of course, to see someone else's faults, but it is not so easy to recognize our own mistakes. We often resent being told about our shortcomings, especially if we see that the person who corrects us has his own problems to overcome. The purpose of life is spiritual growth and change. But such growth is impossible without reproof and correction. "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (II Tim. 3:16-17, Revised Standard Version). What is reproof? What is correction? Do these words have clear, specific meanings to you? Check your dictionary and learn their definitions, because both are necessary for our "training in righteousness." Every one of us must study the Bible with an honest desire to be taught and corrected by it. Unfortunately, some in the Church have a self-righteous attitude when they read the Bible or hear a sermon. They are convinced that the admonishment applies to someone else and not them. So Bible study loses its effectiveness as far as they are concerned. God says, "He who heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof [or correction] goes astray" (Prov. 10:17, RSV). Are you on the "path to life," or are you going astray because you reject reproof? I have often heard Christ's apostle, Herbert W. Armstrong, say that he asks God regularly for correction. Why don't we all pray the same prayer? Remember: The more you are converted, the more you will welcome correction.
"Wash me thoroughly"
Some of us think we get too much correction, but God gives us exactly what we need. However, we all have a tendency to give more correction than we should! It's a matter of attitude — we need a converted, Christian attitude, based on love. To receive correction in the right spirit, you must be willing to admit you are wrong — and that's hard for the carnal mind to do. Get down on your knees and ask God to help you see your faults. Ask Him to change you, and then be willing to change. Look how David pleaded his case in Psalm 51. He first acknowledged his guilt. "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin," he asked God (verse 2). But how did he expect to be washed and cleansed by God? By correction and reproof — and chastisement if necessary. "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom .... Create in me a clean heart, o God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me" (verses 6, 10-1 I). David wanted to be corrected, even though it meant making a serious effort and undergoing suffering. He was ready and willing to accept God's correction, no matter how it came and however unpleasant. He was indeed a man after God's own heart. How often do you ask God for correction and reproof? Do you expect it to come only from Him and never from a human being? I've heard people say, "If correction came from God, I would accept it, but I wouldn't listen if it came from some man." This reasoning is totally wrong. When you ask God for correction, you must be willing to accept it, no matter how it comes to you.
Before his conversion, the apostle Paul didn't realize that he was on the wrong track. He believed he was doing God a service by persecuting the Christians. Proud of his background and learning as a Pharisee, he followed the way that "seemeth right unto a man." When Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned, "Saul [whose name was later changed to Paul] was consenting unto his death" (Acts 8:1). Here you see a powerful, influential man witnessing a murder — and approving of it! Shortly thereafter, he was "yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" when he went to the high priest to ask of him "letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way [Christianity], whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem" (Acts 9:1-2). Filled with this hatred and convinced he was doing the right thing, Saul was on his way to Damascus when God struck him down. What happened then? What was Saul's attitude when corrected? What were the first questions he asked of God? "Who art thou, Lord?... what wilt thou have me to do?" (verses 5-6). These beautiful questions will lead anyone God is calling to true conversion if they are asked honestly and their answers applied. Saul wanted to do what was right in God's sight. Until then, in his ignorance, he was on the wrong course. But upon God's calling, he sought correction. From that time on Saul never again persecuted the Christians. In fact, he himself became one of the most persecuted Christians. Was it easy for Paul to be corrected that way? He had to learn all over how to serve God, to turn the other cheek, to be a Christian. He was probably ridiculed and scoffed at by his former friends. But nothing stopped him from wanting to do God's will.
Change what needs to be changed
When you are corrected, don't look for excuses to reject the admonishment. For instance, if the person who corrects you needs to change, himself, your task as a Christian is to admit where you are wrong and change. The other person's need for correction does not solve your particular problem, nor does it justify your attitude. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (Jas. 4:17). For some time now, Mr. Armstrong has been telling us that the Church, as a whole, is not ready for Christ's return. Do you grasp the seriousness of this warning? It means that you and I have not accepted correction as we should have — and that we have not changed enough! Consciously or not, most people are too lazy to make the effort to change. Life has become routine for them and they get into a rut. They vegetate. But vegetating is not growth in a Christian life. If you don't grow, you go backwards. Unfortunately, some of God's people can't see their own problems. In their self-righteousness, pride or sometimes blindness to their own faults, they don't allow God to show them how to change. They are not willing to pay the price to change! The patriarch Job paid dearly to learn this lesson. But he learned it well and in the end was more blessed than before. Just like him, we must learn to tell God: "I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me" (Job 42:2-4). Can you pray like that? Have you learned to accept correction in order to say to God: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (verses 5-6)? That is the attitude we must have to enter God's Kingdom!
How to give correction
It is said that no one is able to command unless he first is willing to submit to orders. In like manner, before you can correct anyone properly, you must be willing to receive correction. Whether you are giving or receiving correction, you must have understanding, humility and love — without compromise. If the task of correcting someone falls on your shoulders, be sure you yourself are not guilty of the same faults. Set the right example. As God says, "Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (I Pet. 5:5). Do you know what a proud person is? One who does not seek correction. He thinks of himself as better than others. He suffers from self-righteousness. God opposes such a person. When correcting someone, always apply the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Whether at home or at work, with friends or among strangers, be honest and true, "In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works" (Tit. 2:7). Be genuine, not a hypocrite. You can neither give nor receive correction properly if you are a hypocrite. Paul wrote, "If you are sure that you are a guide to the blind [and every member of God's Church is in some ways a guide to the spiritually blind]... a corrector of the foolish [the foolish are those who do not believe in God or God's Word], a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth — you then who teach others, will you not teach yourself?" (Rom. 2:19-21, RSV). These strong words are meant to change and correct everyone of us, to train us in righteousness. Giving correction to others is an important responsibility.
Conversion is change
Obedience to God is synonymous with wanting to be changed and corrected by Him. Growth spells conversion, and it results from applying the teachings you learn. Beseech God, "O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing" (Jer. 10:24). It takes courage to pray this way, but a begotten child of God must have courage. Christ said that unless we become like little children, we shall not enter God's Kingdom. But why? What childlike qualities does Christ desire in adults? Children are more teachable and adapt better to change. They put their trust in those who are watching over them, and they usually do what they are told, even though they may not always agree with it. Christians must be like this. The degree of your conversion is determined by how well you respond to correction. The ancient Israelites didn't like correction. They wanted change, all right, but only in their own way — not God's. They didn't care for His authority and laws. They wanted to be like other nations who were cut off from God, free to do as they pleased, even though it meant suffering and death! Imagine! God was their Ruler, their King and their Protector. He was their Counselor and Teacher. But they rejected Him, preferring to be slaves to sin. Even when the prophet Samuel warned them what would happen to them, they refused to listen. "They said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles" (I Sam. 8:19-20). Do you wish you were free like other people — free to do what you want? You would only be a slave to sin! We were called to be God's people — not like "other people." We have to be malleable in His hands. How sad that some of God's people leave the Church because they want to be like "other people," rejecting correction because of pride, stubbornness and vanity. Be grateful when you are corrected. Accept reproof with humility and make the necessary changes. Afterwards, forget the mistakes God has forgiven. Don't burden yourself with a guilt complex, which can only hinder your growth. God is always willing to forgive you if you accept correction and change. "He who hates reproof will die," says God. That's an awesome warning. But He adds, "He whose ear heeds wholesome admonition will abide among the wise" (Prov. 15:10,31, RSV). Notice: If you heed admonition you will live with the wise. The wise are those who listen to God's counsel, submit themselves to His authority, accept correction and live by His every word. "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12:3). They will be members of God's immortal spiritual Family. These are God's words, and they cannot be broken. If you hate correction, you will die. But if you love correction, you will live forever! What's your choice?