Cain and Abel shared one of the most intimate human relationships: brotherhood. They were the first human beings ever born of a woman (Genesis 4:1-2). They gave offerings to God, but only Abel gave his very best. Cain didn’t offer willingly or contribute the choicest of his crops. God was happy with Abel’s offering; He was upset with Cain’s offering (verses 3-5).
Cain refused to humbly accept correction from God. Instead, he blamed his brother Abel and committed the first murder in human history. Cain’s disdain for correction caused him to murder his own brother.
A Blessing From God
Naturally, humans dread correction. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks, I really hope I get corrected today! Yet correction is a blessing from God: “… My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (Hebrews 12:5-8).
“Our greatest blessing is being corrected by our Father!” Gerald Flurry writes in The Book of Hebrews: What Jesus Christ Is Doing Today. “That means we are not spiritual bastards.”
Correction is a necessary part of becoming perfect like our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:48). Sadly, many of God’s own people struggle to realize this. Many people have become bitter and left God’s Church thinking something to this effect: Mr. Flurry is definitely God’s man. He is speaking on God’s behalf. He is full of love and humility. But all those ministers around him! They don’t know what they’re talking about. Every single minister who has dealt with me has been completely wrong. But of course, if Mr. Flurry came and told me the exact same thing in person, then I would believe it.
Yes, God’s ministers are human. All of us sin, make mistakes and fall short. But this doesn’t negate the occasional correction that the ministry must give to us. Avoid the mindset that no one can correct you in any area unless he is perfect in that area.
Submission to authority—to ministers, teachers, bosses, activity directors, elders, the experienced, husbands or parents—is a lesson that often takes a lifetime to learn deeply. It is a matter of respecting the office, not hyperanalyzing the individual for flaws that could undermine the correction he is trying to deliver.
Correction can even come from our peers. Often they know us better than anyone else. What about correction from those younger than us, those under our authority, or those who hate us? We can find helpful correction even in a “joke” or an unhinged rant, rather than getting defensive and rejecting every point.
What if the correction is delivered imperfectly? Step back, think and pray about it, and find the parts that are true and valuable.
Beware Getting Bitter
God warns against bitterness. The late educator Herbert W. Armstrong called bitterness more addictive than heroin! When we don’t accept and apply correction quickly enough, the result is usually bitterness. It is easy to let correction stew in our minds for weeks, continually trying to convince ourselves that all of it was invalid.
Correction is unpleasant, even if packaged in the absolute best, Goldilocks way—tactful and so gentle that we didn’t realize it was correction until later. Still, God expects us to accept it. Remember, He spiritually chastens and scourges His children (Hebrews 12:6). A physical scourging mutilates the body; a spiritual scourging is also painful.
Rarely does correction come when we didn’t deserve it at all. Even when we do the right thing, we might do it for the wrong reason or with an improper motive. Correction is almost always warranted!
“Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:18-21).
When you get corrected unjustly, think about all the times you could have been corrected but never were. These things have a way of evening themselves out.
Bearing even unfair correction with a good attitude leads to blessings from God. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). Think of correction as your uncompromising personal trainer: It is there to push you to your limits and maybe a bit beyond. It is exercising you. The result: spiritual fitness. The peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Correction is one purpose of Bible study (2 Timothy 3:16). Accepting correction aligns our thoughts, words, deeds and desires with God’s. What a beautiful process!
One Final Tip
When receiving correction, avoid speaking for as long as possible. Take a moment to think about what you are hearing. No excuses. No explaining yourself unless required to. Nod and say “Thank you.” Pray about it as soon as you get a chance. Doing all of this has transformed my correction sessions from long arguments to short, civilized chats, with no hard feelings on either side. It will do the same for you.
See the big picture. Embrace your Father’s correction! To learn more, study Chapter 5 of The Book of Hebrews: What Jesus Christ Is Doing Today: “Embrace Your Father’s Correction.”