What Jesus asks of us in our relationships with one another is in no way easy, but it is the only way that our relationships can have life in them.
What Jesus asks of us in our relationships with one another is in no way easy, but it is the only way that our relationships can have life in them. As in all relationships there are two directions that require our attention; ourselves and the other.
Jesus’ first point is very important here. “Pay attention to yourselves!” We must learn and practice the art of self-reflection. In this we become aware of our own strengths and flaws. It is our flaws that require our attention. It is our flaws that we must address, admit to, and desire to change, for the good of our own spiritual well being. More often than not, the fractures in our relationships are caused by our own unrecognized, or unresolved, flaws. Jesus is telling us to be responsible for our own self-discipline. Only then can we “rebuke” our brother or sister with any authority. Even then, our rebuke must arise out of compassion. Compassion that comes from the awareness that I, too, am a sinner. Because I have needed correction at times, and because I have known, intimately, the pain of guilt and the desire to repent, I can rebuke with love and understanding, and avoid error of judgmentalism.
We are told to pay attention also to our brothers and sisters. “if your brother sins, rebuke him…” When we love our brothers and sisters, we care for their well being. We want what is best for them. We rebuke because we love, not to show ourselves as superior in any way. A pompous rebuke only engenders anger and rebellion. A loving rebuke, when it is seen as such, invites the one who is being rebuked to his, or her own self-reflection. If the rebuke is given out of love, the one who is rebuked will more readily be able to see and to admit to the responsibility for the sin. If the rebuke is recognized as coming from love and understanding, the desire to repent will also be encouraged. And we are told, “If he repents, forgive him.” This is the essence, the heart and soul of love.
We see in this verse from Luke’s Gospel that Jesus is once again showing us how to love one another as he has loved us. This is what Jesus did throughout his public ministry. Did he not rebuke the crowd that wanted to stone the adulterous women? And did he not, then, tell the adulterous women to, “Go now and sin no more?” (John 8:11) Did he not rebuke Peter, telling him, to “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23) In every case, Jesus’ rebukes were given out of love for the person being rebuked. He did not judge them, or condemn them “from on high.” He did not threaten them. And he did not limit their freedom in any way. He rebuked with the authority of his own life, his own goodness. He did it for love of the sinner. He, of course, had in mind the concerns of God, not those of merely human concerns. This is what he is asking of us here too.
Lord, help us to love as you loved. Increase our faith in your love, and give us the grace of humble hearts. Help us to “pay attention to ourselves,” to reflect more honestly on those areas in our own lives where we need to grow in holy self-discipline. Teach our hearts to rebuke each other out of love and to forgive “not just seven times, but seventy times seven times.” (Matthew 18:22) We pray, as always, in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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