Luke 17:3-4 – “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” NASB
I realize that this passage will and does cause a very complex problem for many people. On one hand, it authorizes you to “rebuke” someone who commits an offense against you and on the other it instructs you to “forgive” them if they repent. It goes beyond that. It uses the directive that we are familiar with where the disciples asked Jesus how often we are to forgive, and he gave what amounted to a command to give unlimited forgiveness just as our Heavenly Father has given us.
How do you meld rebuking and forgiving and maintain your Christian integrity? Well, you certainly dare not take the instruction or authorization to “rebuke” the trespasser as a license to retaliate, be mean-spirited, or vindictive. That approach would assuredly would violate all the teachings of our Lord everywhere found in the New Testament. The better understanding is that God does not expect you to be a doormat. He wants you to address evil and wrong without denying its existence but to do so with the view and purpose of securing redemption and restoration.
I have been told and unfortunately told others when an offense has taken place and repentance was offered – “Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t matter.” Yes, It Does! That is a slap in the face of the person and an insult to their attempt to secure forgiveness and obtain reconciliation and restoration.
You should never suggest to them that they do not matter enough to you for that to have had any effect on you because you know it did! We endure hurts in the events of life. We are wounded. We may have even allowed anger to fester for a time in our hearts and wished we could retaliate in some way. We might have even enjoyed seeing them struggle when the shoe was on the other foot in some situations. But, to tell them “It didn’t matter,” is an insult and far from the truth. It Did Matter!
What we are to do when trespassed against is, to be honest about the situation. It hurt, we were wounded, and God wants us to make the other person aware of their actions and the effect of those actions. However it is always to be in a spirit that has as its core the ultimate desire to see reconciliation and restoration.
If that is our heart, then we can address or “rebuke” them without being mean-spirited or vindictive. We must do so in a spirit of love with a genuine desire to see restoration and reconciliation. That attitude and desire will shine through our “rebuke” and while the other person may or may not ‘REPENT’ we will have addressed the issue in a godly manner thus preserving our integrity and a right heart.
I am convinced that too often we fail to address the trespass and allow “roots of bitterness” to spring up in our hearts and when that happens, Many, are Defiled because of the poison produced. God’s wisdom is to meet it head-on with a right heart, attitude, and objective. At that point, there is hope for reconciliation and a real likelihood that this type of thing will not happen again. We will have saved a friend, restored a relationship and prevented a wound from becoming cancerous spiritually.
May God bless you as you go through your day!