“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent’ forgive him.”
– Luke 17:3 & 4
Forgiveness is the recognized core of the Christian faith. However, the uncommon virtue of rebuking is little known or understood. It is therefore a greatly neglected ministry. Be careful as you read today’s verses above not to overlook the fifth, tenth, and eleventh words. Both forgiving and rebuking are closely intertwined with repentance. These spiritual at-tributes are each supremely beneficial when they are exercised under the Holy Spirit’s control. “But he who is spiritual judges all things…” (1 Corinthians 2:15a) Bear in mind that you and I may be the very next persons to need a redemptive rebuke and forgiveness. It is therefore mature to humbly consider the implications of living on both ends of these helpful spiritual disciplines.
The only Biblical reason for assisting a fellow Christian to squarely face his or her sin is to humbly assist them in reaching their own spiritual goals. This is why either giving or receiving a spiritual rebuke can be one of life’s most important experiences. Both David and Nathan were mutually blessed through their difficult personal obedience seen in 2 Samuel 12:1-15. Christian forgiveness always anticipates the act of genuine repentance, so on occasions, a sincere well worded rebuke will be the kindest possible evidence of your love. Nathan’s strong rebuke was God’s wake-up call for David!
As a precaution against pride or an unforgiving spirit, it is wise to immediately begin praying when a sin is committed against you or someone you love. This is important because you may find it beyond your natural ability to trust and accept an offender’s sincere apology or repentance. This is especially true when the exact same offense has repeatedly been committed against you. We will often be led to make wise changes, but we will never be led to hold a stubborn grudge.
It is our highest privilege to progressively be conformed to the Lord’s image. That’s why Christian forgiveness has to be developed as we grow. We are empowered to forgive through the miracle of the Holy Spirit’s transforming activity in our lives. Forgiveness, holiness, and love are the very essence of who God actually – is. They also represent the beauty of what He wants us to – become! These attributes reflect the selfless incarnation which He modeled. Pause to think quietly about yourself. Who best understands your own strengths and weaknesses? How often do you approach God about the exact same reoccurring sin? Do you see yourself intentionally jumping back into the same “mud” – time after time? Even after having just been cleansed? Yes – He hears your confession, but that is not repentance. He knows about your secret desires and addictions, but do you want to continue in that weakness? This is precisely why He lovingly and patiently offers us both cleansing and – forgiveness. No unconfessed sin will ever be overlooked; however, on the cross He fully dealt with every sin that has enslaved us. The Bible says,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
(1 John 1:9)
God rebukes, corrects, (1Timothy 3:16) and repeatedly forgives because that’s His nature. But, He also “…disciplines those He loves…” (Hebrews 12:6) and He loves everyone He created. Discipline is an indispensable element of His sanctifying process and no disciple is exempt from this transforming aspect of His care!
If our fellow believers choose to bring shame to His name – they both need and deserve spiritual correction. When we fail to do this out of sheer neglect or spiritual cowardice, our attitude is immature. Ironically, the sin of unwillingness to rebuke is equal with the sin of refusing to “…turn the other [cheek]…” (Matthew 5:39) We are as specifically instructed to rebuke as we are to forgive! Both of these timeless instructions are equally emphasized by our Lord in the same passage of Scripture.
Let’s review – it requires humility and genuine spiritual obedience to responsibly and lovingly rebuke a Christian brother or sister for their – sin. Equally, it takes patience, love, and faith – to forgive! Stop and ponder – are you personally prepared to be rebuked and repent like David when that inner grace is called for? Do you also stand ready to forgive? These are both advanced disciplines required for your service as a disciple of Christ