In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Throughout the ages, God has used his ordinary servants to challenge individuals, communities, nations and even the whole world. You can recall people like Martin Luther, nicknamed ‘God’s volcano’ by Michael Reeves in his book The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation.
Reeves holds that many people in churches in Rome paid for masses to be said for them and their deceased. Hence masses tended to be said at double speed to the point that many in the congregation could not even understand. Reeves notes a case where two priests allegedly even said masses simultaneously at the same altar. The Reformation in Germany was sparked by stories of unsound teachings such as: ‘when the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs’ It is in this context that Luther felt charged by his faith, conscience and God to preach the Word and rebuke the wayward Church with ‘some’ degree of patience and careful instruction (through his 95 theses).
It can be quite difficult to be faithful to the Word and dare rebuke in this difficult time for Christian service. It can be quite challenging to remain focused on God’s countercultural charges in times of trial, rejection, mockery, challenge and conflict. This makes me think of the hymn Will you come and follow me? Lines that are relevant to me in this context include:
Will you leave yourself behind… Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare? Will you let me answer prayer … Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around, through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
I find it helpful to be reminded of where I get my charge from.
Ultimately, it is God who wants to correct, rebuke and encourage through us. We are simply like waiters, send by the chef to serve wayward customers with challenging and rebuking love. I would say that if we dwell in Christ and if our charge is of God, then we won’t be able avoid correcting, rebuking and encouraging those in need. We need not worry how, for God will guide us accordingly. If we truly love people and wish them well, then God’s Word, in our heart, will be like a fire shut up in our bones. Can we contain it when needed and yet also release it at the right time and the right way?
Loving God grant us, humility to seek your face, faithfulness in our service, wisdom to instruct carefully, patience to bear for as long as it takes, discernment to be in tune with your living Word, boldness to rebuke in love, optimism to encourage and faith to reshape the world around. Amen
The Rev’d Bachelard Kaze is the Minister of Marlpool, Eastwood and Langley URCs in Derbyshire.