It is not a coincidence that the words disciple and discipline look so similar. A “disciple” is one who is “disciplined.” This can refer to self-discipline, as when Paul says he “disciplines” his body to keep it under control (1 Cor. 9:27). Or, it can mean receiving discipline or correction from others when we go astray, whether from parents (Eph. 6:4), other believers (Gal. 6:1), or God (Heb. 12:5, 7–8, 11). Discipline, especially in the sense of correction, is vital for being a disciple.
Jesus calls believers to confront one another as part of the larger process of church discipline (Matt. 18:15–20). Correcting a brother or sister when he or she sins is a biblical requirement. But so is accepting the correction of others and repenting of our sin. In fact, one who fails to accept correction is to be treated as—and understood to be—an unbeliever (v. 17).
Here is the key to accepting correction: it is recognizing that all of our sin is a heinous offense against the holy God who loves us and has made us His children.
Here’s the problem: we hate to correct and we hate to be corrected. Our pride affects both. We don’t confront our brother or sister because we have to be honest and vulnerable, or we’re fearful of an angry response, or we’ve been hurt so we simply ignore the offender. When we do confront, too often we do it hypocritically (Matt. 7:3–5) or in anger instead of in a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1). Confronting and correcting is not venting.
We also hate to be corrected because of our pride. We do not like when others show us our sin. The good news is that God, by His Word and Spirit, helps us overcome our pride. To begin with, Christ has already conquered our pride by drawing us to Himself. Indwelling sin remains, but the power of the sin of pride has been broken for the believer. We are commanded to humble ourselves. But God also gives us the grace to humble ourselves.
In addition, Scripture gives us wonderful examples of saints who have been confronted and who have responded in humility and with true repentance. When David was confronted by Nathan the prophet for his double sin of adultery and murder, he not only repented, but he also wrote one of the greatest passages in the Bible: Psalm 51, a beautiful prayer of confession. We would not have that beautiful psalm if Nathan had not confronted David and if David had not humbly repented.
But why did David so readily repent? We see it in his response to Nathan: “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13). We see it again in Psalm 51, where David writes, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (v. 4). Here is the key to accepting correction: it is recognizing that all of our sin is a heinous offense against the holy God who loves us and has made us His children. When that is our perspective, those who confront us become not messengers of condemnation, but angels of mercy.