Four Ways To Receive and Process Rebuke Without Bitterness




Four Ways To Receive and Process Rebuke
Without Bitterness


Rebuke is a curious, yet serious, word. It’s not used much outside of church circles.

I have taken inspiration for this post from Sparkling Gems from the Greek, November 6 ( The author, Rick Renner, approaches this topic from the perspective of having the integrity to confront a person who has offended you. I will instead examine it from the outlook of the one who is being corrected.

Quite honestly, just thinking about being rebuked makes me want to recoil. Isn’t that what Believers are always doing to Satan? Yet, I know that at times, I offend others both knowingly and unknowingly. It’s one thing to be called out from within my family, and quite another to be confronted by a friend or stranger.

Pastor Renner’s devotional, titled Confront, Forgive and Forget, inspired me to reflect back on the last time I was personally rebuked by someone outside of my family. The Holy Spirit taught me a lot from that experience which I want to share here. It is important that I clarify that this post is not about corrective actions that fall under the category of church discipline. We will discuss Believers rebuking fellow Believers. But, first things first, let’s define the biblical meaning of rebuke.

What Does Rebuke Mean?

Perhaps the thought of being rebuked is uncomfortable because I am thinking of the dictionary definition: “to express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.” That implies a harshness that is intended to wound the person being rebuked. The biblical meaning is quite different.

Pastor Renner does a beautiful job explaining the meaning of the word rebuke found in Luke 17:3. He says, “The word “rebuke” is the Greek word epitimao, which in this case means to speak frankly, honestly, and politely as you tell a person how you feel that he has wronged you. This doesn’t mean you have to speak to him like he’s a devil; it just means you need to directly and honestly confront him.”

The underlying motivation of the first is to strike out at the person being rebuked and thus harm the relationship. The underlying motivation of the second is to clear the air, and to restore the relationship to wholeness.

This topic is controversial because of the potential for the abuse of rebuking and also because, by nature, we are defensive when confronted. It is our nature to strike out. When someone corrects us, even in the most loving way, it takes a manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit to remain open and grounded. However, when we ask, God always provides a way for us to productively receive and process rebuke.

Productive Ways To Receive And Process Rebuke

The suggestions offered here have two overarching goals: to honor God and to guard against a root of bitterness. I can’t overemphasize the importance of immediately and routinely rooting out thoughts that would lead to bitterness. In my experience, it is extremely painful and difficult to eradicate bitterness, once left unchecked and deeply rooted.

• Center Yourself in the Holy Spirit

In any situation in which you are caught off-guard, or begin to feel emotional, train yourself to make your spirit aware of the Holy Spirit. This practice is so vital, yet under used. In essence you are praying, asking for His help in responding in the moment and beyond. What a comfort and encouragement it is to know the Helper and Comforter is right there with you, helping you to respond appropriately. Although it is done without speaking, it is powerful. The times I have, on the spot, asked God to help me to see the situation/person as He does, are the times I have been able to respond supernaturally, beginning with assuming the best about the person’s motives.

• Assume the Best

If you will take the position that the other person truly wants to make the relationship better, you can appreciate them for their candor in addressing the issue rather than letting it grow into a root of bitterness. It’s fairly natural to receive rebuke with defensiveness – especially if it’s delivered imperfectly. But we have the Holy Spirit as our helper to assess our part in causing the offense and to help us respond with the right attitude. And remember: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” (Ephesians 6:12).

• Join Forces Against Your Common Adversary – Not Each Other

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) and that includes relationships. Satan is the author of strife and loves to see Believers take offense. If you can be in agreement with the other person that you both want to restore wholeness to the relationship, it takes you out of a victim’s role. The person rebuking you is not your enemy. When both parties yield to God, relationships can be strengthened by dealing with the grievance instead of burying issues and pretending they don’t exist. Once the grievance has been aired and you are working together to resolve it, it’s time to seek and accept forgiveness and mercy.

• Seek and Receive Forgiveness and Mercy

Sometimes we are guilty of offense. Sometimes it’s a misunderstanding. And sometimes it’s just a matter of different personal styles of relating. At times, repentance and a change in attitude is called for. Other times, it’s appropriate to apologize in acknowledgement of what the other person is feeling. Sometimes, two people must agree to act in love toward each other despite personal style differences. Whichever the case, genuinely seek forgiveness and receive it. Follow your Heavenly Father’s example and then forgive yourself. Your heart is free. You have asked for forgiveness and received God’s mercy. Don’t mentally rehash it. Don’t continually talk about it. Consider the matter settled. Move on.

To Sum It Up

The meaning of rebuke implies a direct and honest confrontation. A rebuke can be personally and spiritually productive when we center ourselves in the Holy Spirit, assume the best of the other person, join forces against our common adversary, and seek and receive forgiveness. In doing so we honor God and guard against a root of bitterness.



  1. very much encouraging

  2. Carrie Huskey says:

    Oh my friend. I never thought about rebukin my husbands abuse towards me but it sounds like it might be the thing to do. I don’t want to be harsh about it but his abuse towards me has got me feelin si bad about me. Im depressed and have a hard time liftin my head. But I hold my head high because my God loves me. He has filed for divorce so that’s what I am goin thru now. He rebukes me often enougj because I fight back for me. It makes me feel like dirt. But God don’t think I am. He loves me.

  3. While I agree with your definition of rebuke, I would also add to speak your feelings in a way that is not offensive or negative …focusing on positive outcomes is much more advantageous and I dare say ‘Christian’..
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  4. Nyla Norris says:

    Good morning Olga,
    It’s always nice to see your teachings in my inbox. Handling rebuke has always been difficult for me to be able to confront someone or receive a rebuke. I will now intentionally call on the Holy Spirit to help me. Thank you for this message.
    Have a Holy Spirit Day!

    • Thank you so much Nyla for your comment, it is not easy to rebuke somebody or to be rebuked ourselves. And yes the Holy Spirit knows where you are and He knows where the other person is in life and He knows how to speak through us and work in us to our benefit. It ALWAYS turns out for the good

  5. Olga, this is so timely for me. I have to be the one who confronts very soon and have already been praying through the whole situation. It’s a good reminder, even though it’s from the other perspective, that everything must be kept in honesty, love, and peacefully spoken. I have pictured this over and over in my head and know it’s what needs to be done and what God wants me to do. Honestly, I’m praying for silence on the other person’s part without the typical defensive response. And as soon as I’ve said what needs to be said, I will be turning around, walking away, with peace in my heart and a “job well done” from my Heavenly Father. There has been so much lying and deceit… only God can work and move and change everyone in this. I know He can… as long as we are willing! Thank you for another “real” and heartfelt article.
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  6. Great description of the word rebuke. It seems like such a harsh word but when it is done out of a spirit of love and concern it can be very effective. Very thought-provoking, as always!
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  7. Hey Olga great to hear from you, I love the topic. Yes I’ve been (Rebuke) befor, this word can sound so hard sometime. But being (Rebuke) has help me to be the person I am today, as a woman of God. It has given me guidance as well as taught me the (Fruit of the Spirit which is Love,Joy,Peace,Longsuffering,Gentleness, Goodness, and Faith. It can teach you to be Humble as well, so to me personal being corrective will pay off in the future. Much Love God Bless!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thank you so much Regina for your great comment, I am glad to hear that you are on the right track; stay in touch!

  8. I loved the pastor’s definition of rebuke. I’d never seen that before. Now, that kind of rebuke would be a lot easier to take for most people.
    Ron recently posted..Harmony beyond the music; the importance of toleranceMy Profile

  9. I must admit the subject of ‘rebuking’ has always been confusing for me. This is such a good message and as many of your posts are, extremely timely! I also agree with Ron as to pastor Renners definition – that is such a good way to describe it!
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