A believing woman asked us: “I wanted to ask, if we, as women, have the right to rebuke or correct anyone in the Lord?”
To begin with, as a mother, you certainly have the right to rebuke and correct your children, and not only the right, but the duty. You have the right to do so with younger women and men, Lord willing, depending on what responsibility and authority the Lord has given you with them. And you mustn’t judge by physical age, which would be by appearance, but by your relevant status as well as that of those persons. Where are they at, and where are you at? Is it given to you to rebuke or correct, no matter who the subjects are, whether your children or younger people, male or female, authorities in the world, believers or unbelievers?
You may or may not have the right to rebuke and correct even when blatant evil is done or spoken, Lord willing. That right must be qualified and is limited, depending upon your social and spiritual status and upon who is doing the evil or needs the correction. Rulers may do evil, but is it for women to take it upon themselves to rebuke them? I don’t think so… unless the Lord gives express command to do so, but I know of no such testimony or teaching in Scripture. Does anyone? Of course, it isn’t for all men to rebuke rulers at any time, either.
Perhaps the most relevant setting for your question is our fellowship in the Lord at The Path of Truth. You may ask, “Do I have the right, or am I allowed to, rebuke or correct anyone here?” Good question, and one that needs answering, especially as we grow in numbers and have newcomers, both believers and unbelievers. You may be asking, “Do I, as a woman, have the right to rebuke or correct a new-coming man, for example?” I say that if the Lord has given you understanding of matters at hand, whether they are happening or are being discussed, you may (not should, necessarily) be able to bring forth what you have.
Certainly, in many instances, you ought to bring these things to the elders first to confirm their accuracy and validity so that you don’t complicate situations with input that may be inadvisable. You may not be aware of things that Paul and I are aware of, or you may need more understanding we might give you before you speak. Or it may be things you bring forth to elders, leaving it to them to speak to the person(s) in need of correction or rebuke. There are several possibilities.
It’s good to receive counsel before taking steps to rebuke or correct. It’s also good to receive counsel from the right persons, those who are in authority and who understand, too. Listening to the wrong people can be unproductive and even disastrous.
Most importantly, you ultimately need to have your own oil and receive wisdom personally from the Lord to know what to do.
Marina, you are an outspoken person. Sometimes that can be good, but often it can be detrimental. And while the “older and wiser” may understand and deal with those things spoken appropriately, younger souls might have a more difficult time dealing with them. It’s good to have order, consideration, discretion, and temperance for all parties involved.
For all of you, men or women, I would say be careful to consider and seek advice before you rebuke or correct. Discuss, explain, and give your understanding or knowledge where called for. “Be swift to hear and slow to speak.” It isn’t for women to lead and teach men, much less correct or rebuke them, particularly those in authority over them, be they spiritual elders or husbands or older brothers in the spirit or flesh.
Nor is it for men who are new in the Lord to speak in a congregation of saints as though they already know it all. If any speak out of turn with a know-it-all attitude when apparently just new to the things of God, I would question whether they truly have anything from the Lord, after all. At the least, I would say they have fires coming to chasten and refine. The mark of experience with the Lord is manifest more in the attitude and spirit of a person than in their knowledge of doctrine, profession of faith, and claim to a relationship with the Lord.
One more thing for now, though so much more could be said about who is allowed to “rebuke and correct,” using your words, Marina. You should often first approach people privately, as Jesus advised:
Matthew 18:15-17 MKJV
(15) But if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
(16) But if he will not hear you, take one or two more with you, so that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
(17) And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the Church. But if he neglects to hear the Church, let him be to you as a heathen and a tax-collector.
Whether or not you approach someone privately first depends on a few factors… whether or not that person’s wrong is private or public, whether or not that person has been corrected on those same matters before, who the bystanders witnessing the procedure are, and what those bystanders are aware of in the situation. Always have the person’s best interests at heart.
To summarize for women, normally speaking, it isn’t for women to bring forth correction and rebuke publicly, certainly not those in Christ older than them, and certainly not elders by authority in the Lord. But of course, these laws or guidelines also apply to men, as well, although some men may have more freedom to correct or rebuke, as with, for example, when Stephen, a young man full of the Holy Spirit, was given to rebuke none other than the Sanhedrin of Israel (Acts 7). However, you wouldn’t have found Stephen led of the Lord to do any such thing with the assembly/congregation of God and the apostles and elders.
Have I helped or confounded you? Give me more questions, perhaps more specific ones, if necessary, and Lord willing, we’ll answer. Others may have questions and comments to make. The question Marina asks is an important one, for it pertains to how we ought to conduct ourselves with one another and with those who happen to come by for a time. We would like to avoid strife and misunderstanding, presumption and disorder. Much better to be nurturing love and understanding, instead of each trying to have his or her own way, “every man (and woman) doing that which is right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
– June 10, 2014