The Loving Rebuke

[3] Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, [4] and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, “I repent,’ you must forgive him.”( Luke 17:3-4)

At first glance, forgiving a brother or sister up to seven times may seem like the greatest challenge in this passage. I disagree. I think today we struggle more with the initial rebuke of the sinner. 

Jesus is very straight forward in this passage: “If your brother sins, rebuke him…” Show your brother his sin. Call him to repentance. Encourage contrition. 

Yet far too often today Christians avoid giving the rebuke. There is an entire array of reasons for this: 

  • We fear the rebuke is going to lead to a confrontation and a conflicted relationship. 
  • We know our own sinfulness and would feel hypocritical in rebuking a fellow believer. 
  • We don’t understand God’s law well enough to be confident that the brother has actually sinned.
  • We know that we may need to follow up on the rebuke if the brother repents, to support them in their repentance. We just don’t want to risk committing the time. 

Yes, rebuking a brother or sister can take courage. However, when it is clearly an issue of sin, the rebuke is the loving thing to do. The single most important relationship with have is with God. Sin harms that relationship. Most of the time, sin also hurts other relationships. The rebuke is the first step to restoring these relationships. 

May our Lord grant us the courage to express His love for our neighbors, even when that love is shown through a rebuke. 

(A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS.)


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