I don’t know about you, but several of Jesus’ commands to his disciples make me uncomfortable. Here’s one: “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.”” (Luke 17:3–4, NKJV)
We’re familiar with the forgiveness part…but did you notice Jesus’ other command? A command to rebuke? How does that jive with being a peacemaker? Are “waging peace” and “rebuking your brother” oxymorons?
The Greek word translated “sin” here is harmatano and it means to break a rule; to cross a line; or to commit a grievance. Jesus is describing interpersonal conflict here – when someone violates you or crosses a line they shouldn’t, or commits what you see as a grievance against you, or seriously misses the mark of what you expect from them…we are told to rebuke them.
That word, “rebuke” means to speak frankly, honestly, and politely as you tell that person how you feel you’ve been wronged. Maybe you remember the first step of the confrontation process Jesus gave us in Matthew 18: ““If your brother sins against you, go tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matthew 18:15, CSB)
We are to go to the right person in the right spirit. The right person is the one we have a problem with. The right spirit is one of humility and love.
As peacemakers, we take our lumps in life just like everyone else. We pray that God makes us unoffendable. We know that we’re not perfect and we do our level-best to overlook offenses from others. But sometimes, as Jesus said, we must rebuke.
How do we do it in the right way where it is life-giving and not judgmental? That will be the topic of my sermon on Sunday. We’ll look at how Jesus rebuked Peter and Judas and we’ll discuss how to walk this out in our lives, too. I hope you’ll join us.
Be a peacemaker!