Luke 17:3b-4 "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."
‘Rebuke’ is an interesting word. In English, it originally meant to force back or repress something by pushing against it. In Greek, it meant to overload something with so much honor that any badness, corruption, or sinfulness would be thoroughly depleted, so that only goodness would remain. These days, we equate the word ‘rebuke’ as something negative, judgmental, or offensive, simply because we do not like to be criticized, questioned, or confronted about our personal choices, decisions, and deeds.
In the New Testament, the purpose of a rebuke was to make someone aware of the negative consequences of a personal act or selfish misdeed. The rebuke was meant to stop individuals from doing something sinful or foolish, in order to bring them back to their senses, turnaround their lives, and set them back on the right direction. It wasn't a judgment to make them feel bad; it was a cautionary word to help them be restored to something good.
This is how forgiveness and grace actually work. People may turn away from self-destructive and detrimental choices because they sincerely seek the peace and wholeness that being forgiven offers. This is what makes repentance a key process in spiritually reforming and transforming people. The hope of being reconciled and restored to God’s favor, blessing, and love can be a major and positive impact in healing people of their past, in order to help them lead better and productive future lives. So, if we properly understand what Jesus once taught in today’s passage, we would see that a rebuke can bring about a healthy realization in a person, which in turn leads to a sincere repentance, to be followed up with real forgiveness, in order to bring about an absolute restoration with God and others. It’s a beautiful way of transforming our lives; it’s what makes grace so amazing.
Questions for reflection
Have I ever been rebuked? If so, how did I respond? Am I willing to forgive someone who repents? Am I committed to restoring hope through the healing of God’s grace?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Author of our hope and salvation. Sometimes Your words challenge, confront, and even rebuke us in ways that make us aware of our faults, foolishness, and failings. Help us to understand that You overload us with Your honor not to make us feel bad, miserable, or fearful, but instead You use it to cleanse us from our sins and fully reconnect us to our loving, forgiving, and everlasting God. In Your Holy Name, we humbly and cheerfully pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is one of John’s latest stained glass type designs. It’s called ‘Spirit of the Dogwoods.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Dogwoods.