The Danger of Taking Others With You (2)
The next part of this (Luke 17:1-4 - TN) is about how to handle offenders. In verses 1 and 2 there is a warning to us: we are to be careful not to offend. In verses 3 and 4 there is instruction to all of us about how to handle offenders; here it is: “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him.”
There are four simple words here, right in the middle of this passage, and every individual ought to pay attention to this and take it seriously: TAKE HEED TO YOURSELVES! It is easy to take heed to others. Without much effort at all we can fall into the habit of examining other people; watching other people; talking about other people. We can become hyper-sensitive to offenses; we can focus so much on others we never ponder our own path. The Lord said: TAKE HEED TO YOURSELVES!
Right in the middle of this passage that mentions offenses and rebuke issued to offenders Jesus says something important: TAKE HEED TO YOURSELVES! I hope each one of us will do this. I need to take an inventory of my life; I need to examine myself. I need to ponder my own pathway; monitor my own attitude; watch what I do and say, lest I offend God and take others with me into sin! Take Heed To Yourselves.
Now the next part of this begins with the word “if…” This introduces a contingency; that means, here is something that might happen. Jesus describes a situation and then tells us what to do when this happens. This is so simple – He describes what might happen and then tells us what to do when this happens. Listen to Him: “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”
There are all kinds of things we are tempted to do when a brother sins against us. We may be tempted to respond by sinning against him. It sounds immature, and it is: “He sinned against me... I will sin against him!!” That’s wrong.
Or when a brother or sister sins against us we may be tempted to express our repulsion to everybody, except the perpetrator. Now, when I put it that way, it really sounds unwise. It is, and it ignores what the Lord said we ought to do. In fact, I am making things worse when I express my anger to everybody except the perpetrator.
There is another typical response that also ignores what Jesus said; that is, to say nothing and do nothing and just hold the grudge within. First, that approach is in direct disobedience to what Jesus said. Second, that approach will probably make you sick or miserable. Third, when you finally give vent to this grudge there is no telling how you may react. Fourth, if someone is guilty they need to know and repent!
There are all kinds of things we are tempted to do when a brother sins against us, but here’s what we ought to do. Listen: “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Can you do that? Of course you can. Jesus doesn’t require the impossible; it may be difficult and emotionally challenging, but this can be done. If your brother sins against you, you can go to him and rebuke him. And if he repents, Jesus says you must “forgive him.”
The attitude forgiveness is based on should be in your heart constantly, even immediately after the offense. God is ready to forgive us all the time. We ought to be ready to forgive the offender. Jesus describes a situation; then He tells us what to do when this happens, and I believe we can do this, and we must do this. “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”
Now there’s one more thing here we need to study. Suppose you are with Jesus personally, and He is telling you this, and you can talk with Him about this instruction. He says, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” And you might want to say to Jesus, something like this: “Well, you are right Lord, and I'll do that. When my brother sins, I'll rebuke him; and if he repents, I'll forgive him. But I’m not just going to keep doing this, over and over again, Lord – I have my limits you know!”
What if God took that approach with us? Where do you think we would be? What if God said to us, “You sin against me once or twice, and I'll forgive you when you repent; but when you get to sin #4, #5, and on and on… FORGET IT!” What if God took that approach with us? Think about it! Do you want God to be as stern with you, as you are toward others? Do you want His mercy to be limited to a specific number of offenses? Then after that – no forgiveness??
Well of course we all know the answer! We want God’s mercy. We need His grace. We depend upon His patience with us. And whenever we sin and repent we want His forgiveness. Shouldn’t we extend to others the mercy know we need from God?
Well, that’s what this is about, where Jesus said: “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
Is there anything in this text that is difficult, or that is subject to some long, complicated debate? I don’t think so, do you? And if I am a believer – a Christian, a follower of Christ – this is the instruction I will follow; this is the care I will exercise toward others; this is the duty I will perform.
Finally let me say, this is not hypothetical; this happens in real life. The question is not, will this ever happen. The question is, when this happens, will I obey the Lord?