Sirach 32:17 states: “The sinner will shun reproof, and will find a decision according to his liking” (NRSV).
When I read this verse yesterday, it got me thinking about Christian reproof.
Here’s my problem with it: A lot of time, it amounts to Christians criticizing me, without offering me any support or encouragement to help me to overcome whatever problem I may have. Oh, some Christians love to criticize, since that makes them feel righteous and authoritative. But are they actually going to help those they are criticizing, or will they essentially leave those people alone, to deal with their struggles all by themselves? In my opinion, if those Christians are not willing to provide encouragement, support, and guidance, then they have no business rebuking. I’m not saying that as an absolute, for there are probably exceptions, but just as a rule of thumb.
On the other hand, do I really want what I am talking about here? Suppose that a Christian rebukes me, and I say “You’re right” just to get that person off my back. Do I seriously want that person to be nagging me continually about whether I am living up to his or her standards? Not particularly. That’s the thing about spiritual mentorship: the spiritual mentee has to be willing to receive guidance.