Paddle your canoe is a slang I learned in boarding school, it means to mind your business. In my head, the concept of minding your business by paddling your own canoe always creates a vivid image of a person frantically trying to paddle another person’s canoe while sitting in theirs. Although, I do not know the history of how it came to be, what I can say is it was a very painful thing to be told to “paddle your canoe.”
Minding your business is a very good thing to do, it is what we were taught to do growing up. Some say minding your business and drinking water is the secret to clearer skin. The only question the business of minding one’s business raises is “what is my business?”
Is the concept of minding your business a feasible thing for Christians? What is your business as a Christian?
When you see a Christian acting in a manner that is contrary to the faith, or unbecoming of one who professes Christ, what do you do? Do you just walk away because “it is not my business” “I do not know them personally” “I am no better,” or do you correct them?
As a Christian, not minding our business is a necessity. We as Christians, cannot afford to watch the lives of our brethren veer off the path of salvation while hiding under the “minding my business” cloak. Simply put it is unacceptable to mind your business and watch a distracted person walk in front of a moving truck without at the very least trying to warn them.
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Phillipians 2:4
Pointing others to Christ is the business of every believer. By others, I do not mean unbelievers solely, believers sometimes also need to be redirected to Christ and it is our business to do so. Sometimes, it is easier for us to correct “unbelievers” than to correct our “brethren,” with fellow believers we would rather mind our businesses, trusting the Holy Spirit in them to convict and help them realize their shortcomings than actually saying something.
The fear that we are not perfect and saying something will somehow shine the spotlight on the spiritual deficiencies we have managed to keep from the public restrains us. We tell ourselves there is no clear-cut scriptural backing for our correction, that said unwholesome acts are borderline activities that do not harm anybody or are “technically not sin” so they should be fine. We often times are more concerned about not losing “friendships” we have built by rocking the boat with correction.
Correcting others is never an easy thing to do, there is no telling how they might react. There is always the nagging question of how, when, where?
First, I’d say do it in love. Let your correction come from a place of love and a genuine desire to turn them from the path of destruction. People can usually tell when the motive is to be condescending or flaunt your “perfection.” Do not come across as accusatory, remember the accuser of the brethren is the devil. You are not the devil, and you are not the Holy Spirit either so conviction is not your job.
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
Correcting a brethren is not a competition about who can win an argument, or who has the most knowledge of scripture. It is not about “who” is right, but “what” is right. Many times as Christians, we engage in endless debates even in the face of apparent wrong just because we do not want to admit that we are wrong.
When correcting, don’t forget to drop your sword, we are not at war. Remember that some people genuinely do not know and not all unwholesome acts are signs of rebellion or defiance. You can help people see that working out our salvation is a constant learning process, and the things that seemed permissible at the beginning of the journey might not be permitted anymore. Help them see that letting go of certain traits or habits is a sign of spiritual growth and although some people realize on their own that some things have to stop, others exhibit growth by becoming more receptive to corrections on how to let things go and that’s okay too.
Finally, pray before trying to correct anyone. It is not uncommon for people to go forth relying on excellence of speech and “soul winning expertise” instead of the leading of the spirit, the truth is you can only say so much to a person,
Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127: 1
May the Holy Spirit continue to teach us that we are all each other’s businesses, help us to be sensitive to His promptings on when to speak up and when to be silent. May He also help us realize that correcting people does not mean we have attained perfection, and help us seek the help and directions we need too.
Just because the salvation of your soul is indeed my business.
Receive correction with love,
Nobody is “too beneath you” in the “salvation hierarchy” to correct you,
Defensive is almost never a good reaction to correction,
Don’t make it difficult for people to correct you,
You are not being judged,
Love is the reason why they are correcting you.