Saturday, November 02, 2013

Rebuke is good - The Instructor

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"As, therefore in addition to persuasive discourse, there is the hortatory and the consolatory form; so also, in addition to the laudatory, there is the inculpatory and reproachful. And this latter constitutes the art of censure." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Clement enumerates many of the different forms of instruction, some being more sterner than others.

Persuasive: Persuasive instruction tries to convince us, of our own free will, to follow a path that is beneficial for us. It seeks to entice us with the benefits of the right path and of the fruitful end of its leading.

Hortatory: Hortatory instruction uses strong urging to provoke us along the way. Urging us to start our journey and to continue along even when times get difficult. It sometimes uses examples of those who succeeded along the way as well as those who failed in their quest to motivate us to continue in the way of the Lord.

Consolatory: Consolatory instruction helps us when we encounter discouragement, disappointment, and difficulty in our journey. It comforts our minds and reminds us of the reward that awaits for us at the end. Giving us hope that our present difficulties will not be our terminal reality as we walk with God.

Laudatory: Laudatory instruction praises us for our successes along the way. Giving us encouragement and hope of future success is we continue in the instruction of God.

Inculpatory: Inculpatory instruction identifies our failures and assigns our part in them. It shows us how and why we failed and, more importantly, our responsibility in our failure. For unless we can identify our part of our failure, we cannot find repentance and forgiveness for our actions.

Reproachful: Reproachful instruction shows us the sinfulness of our sin. Some sin yet find nothing wrong with it. How can someone who steels repent unless they understand the sinfulness of the theft? Reproach not only identifies what we did wrong, but also why it is wrong that, in understanding not only our actions but also our wrongs, we might repent.

Some of these modes of instruction are gentle and mild while others are more stringent and stern, yet all are necessary and are applied by God to our lives as times require. Sometimes He is persuasive, when our hearts are easily turned, and other times He is inculpatory, when our stubbornness threatens our progress. What ever the need, God has the remedy for our lives.
"Now censure is a mark of good-will, not of illwill. For both he who is a friend and he who is not, reproach; but the enemy does so in scorn, the friend in kindness. It is not, then, from hatred that the Lord chides men; for He Himself suffered for us, whom He might have destroyed for our faults." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Sometimes we view censure as unloving since we cannot imagine censure being dispensed any other way than how we would dispense it, with scorn. We fail to understand God's motives because we expect God to be like us. However, God is not a man nor are His emotions and actions like those of mankind. God censors but not in scorn rather in love. God reproaches us out of His love for us and His desire for good in our lives. As a demonstration of this God chose to die for our sins rather than to destroy us for our sins. Not the actions of a scornful God but of a loving and compassionate God.
"For the Instructor also, in virtue of His being good, with consummate art glides into censure by rebuke; rousing the sluggishness of the mind by His sharp words as by a scourge. Again in turn He endeavours to exhort the same persons. For those who are not induced by praise are spurred on by censure; and those whom censure calls not forth to salvation being as dead, are by denunciation roused to the truth. 'For the stripes and correction of wisdom are in all time.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
It is because God is good and loving that He rebukes and censures us that He might lead us back to the way of salvation. At every moment in our our walk with the Lord, our Instructor knows what we need; sometimes praise, sometimes rebuke, and sometimes denunciation. However, regardless of the mode our instruction takes, it is always meant for our benefit that we might obtain life and salvation. In His rebuke, God is still good.

David Robison

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