TO CHEW ON: “‘Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.’” Luke 17:3
These instructions of Jesus’ slip easily through our fingers when things between us and others are going well. But when relationships start to come apart, then it’s easy to feel the knots.
I see three things in this passage to pay attention to:
1. “'If your brother sins against you rebuke him...'”
That may sound easy but for those of us who dislike confrontation, it’s hard. It makes sense, though. The person may not even know he’s being offensive. Such open communication in the first place might take the wind out of the problem's sails before it has a chance to go anywhere.
As Matthew Henry so quaintly puts it:
“… it may be you will perceive (and you must be very willing to perceive it) that you mistook him, that it was not a trespass against you or not designed but an oversight; and then you will beg his pardon for misunderstanding him” - Matthew Henry’s Commentary, accessed through BibleGateway.com.
2. “'… and if he repents…'”
Of course it’s easy (or easier) to give a person who is sorry another chance. But what if he doesn’t repent? The lavish forgiveness described (Luke 17:4) is based on repentance. In the case of the unrepentant, Mr. Henry suggests:
“… you are not bound to be so free and familiar with him as you have been.”Paul spells out altered relations with the stubbornly sinful person in 1 Corinthians 5:11, where he says to not even eat with such a person. (Of course we’re talking here about someone who has done something much more serious than offend or hurt our feelings).
3. “'… forgive him.'”
[The word forgive means: to grant pardon for remission of an offense, debt, etc., absolve, give up all claim on account of, remit, cease to feel resentment against, cancel indebtedness.]
Mr. Henry: “Christians should be of a forgiving spirit, willing to make the best of everybody and to make all about them easy, forward, to extenuate faults, and not to aggravate them: and they should contrive as much to show that they have forgiven an injury as others to show that they resent it.”
In other words, we need to wipe the slate clean. Bleach the stain of the offense from memory, even though the repetition of it and the need to forgive many many times may stretch and challenge us.
PRAYER: Dear Father, I need courage to confront when necessary. Then open my eyes to where I’m holding grudges and resentments against the unaware (in other words, have withheld forgiveness). Help me to truly forgive and let resentments go once and for all. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.