Dishing Out and Taking in Correction
Correction hurts. Even when we speak truthfully, we can go too far, cut too deep, and end up being harmful, not helpful. When we are careless, our words become weapons (Js 3:1-9). On the flip side, misunderstanding the motive when a friend corrects us can sever a decades-long friendship. Pride can stick its fingers in our ears and blocks any noise of rebuke. Giving and receiving correction is dangerous, but needed.
A wise person learns how to deliver and digest correction. Proverbs 9:8 says, “rebuke the wise, and he will love you,” and Proverbs 12:18 says, “the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Watching God correct Jonah is one place to see the wisdom of these proverbs in action.
Watching God Correct
As God corrects Jonah, he uses different tactics. He does not always bring a belt. He uses a variety of strategies. When you expect God to send a different, more obedient prophet, instead, he doubles down on Jonah (Jonah 3:1-4). When you assume God will send another storm, he sits for a conversation (4:1-11). God shows skill and sensitivity with Jonah. God humbles him when he is proud (1-2), exhorts him when he wavers (3:1-4), gently exposes his idols (4:5-11), teaches him when he doubts (4:10-11), and when Jonah despairs God carries him forward (4:9).
His timing, his tone, and his motive are always perfect. His words are a scalpel in the hand of the perfect surgeon. God never cuts in the wrong place or cuts too deep. Every place he cuts, he heals. “See how happy is the person whom God corrects; so do not reject the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds but he also bandages; he strikes, but his hands also heal” (Job 5:17–18). God knows how to correct.
Correct with Compassion
God corrects with compassion. Compassion leads him to show Nineveh mercy, teaching Jonah a lesson in the process (Jonah 4:10-11). Correcting someone is an act of love, not a chance to vent your anger. In the world of social media, our reflex is to bark and bite, assuming what we need to say is exactly what someone needs to hear. Paul warns, “if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:15). Biters one day find vultures picking at their carcass.
Correcting someone should build them up, not cut them in pieces. Consider what Paul says about God’s word in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. It teaches, rebukes, trains and corrects “so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God corrects us to train and equip us for every good work. Pray hard to love the person before you speak any word of rebuke and correction. We must clothe truth in love. Always.
Be Corrected with Thankfulness
Watching God correct Jonah, we also learn to receive correction with thankfulness. This lesson took Jonah a while to learn. I guess he’s normal.
God loves you deeply and therefore he will discipline and correct you (Hb. 12). You likely won’t have verbal conversations with him like Jonah. For you, correction will probably come from other people. They won’t always say the right thing at the right time and in the right tone. Yet, the same wisdom, compassion and sensitivity guiding how God corrects Jonah, guides who he uses to correct you. Remembering this helps us be grateful to be corrected. Not one of us is above correction, and not one of us is beneath being used by God to correct each other.
Jonah had to learn this lesson. Like many people, Jonah was too proud to be taught, so God gives him a task that brings the issue to the surface and then he slowly skims away the dirt. God loves us too deeply to leave us without correction. I am grateful for brothers and sisters who love me enough to speak up when I do something stupid. They are a wonderful gift from God. Treasure the people in your life who love you enough to have tough conversations.