January 16, 2020 – Thursday
Luke 17:3-4 NIV
3 “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.
4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
This is so very different from what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15 and in Mark 11:25-26 where as Christians we were to forgive anyone who sinned against for anything they may have done. Here Jesus is telling His disciples any Christian brother or sister who sins against you, first rebuke them, then if they repent they are to be forgiven. In fact if they sin against you seven times in a day and end up saying ‘I repent’ seven times Jesus states (commands) you must forgive them.
Turns out this is even more different than one might think when we consider the context of the prior verses in this chapter
1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves.
Yes I left off the first three words of the third verse in the verse of the day to keep the focus on sin and forgiveness, but the context reveals they fit when used with the first two verses. We need to watch ourselves and do our best to make sure we are not the cause of people to stumble (v1). In fact if we were to do so knowingly It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck. Little ones may be children or people getting used to their walk of faith with Jesus. It is those young in the faith, brothers and sisters in the faith, who will most likely sin against us again and again requiring our rebuke and forgiveness so their walk with Christ can be strengthened.
Peter Pett wrote the following about this: ‘Take heed to yourselves’ connects these verses directly to the idea in Luke 17:1-2. There is no more important attitude towards young believers than to be able to forgive them. That does not, however, mean dealing lightly with sin. If a brother or sister sins then their sin must be drawn to their attention, not in a hypercritical or censorious way, but gently and lovingly in the same way as we would want them to do it to us. Nevertheless they must be shown that it is wrong. Sin must not be condoned. The verb used can mean ‘To speak seriously about, or to warn in order to prevent an action, or in order to bring one to an end’. But then if they acknowledge their sin and change their heart and mind about it they are to be forgiven. Back biting or the nursing of grudges is thus forbidden. In Matthew Jesus amplifies the idea to include seeking the help of others where the person fails to repent in Matthew 18:15-17
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
However, returning to what to do if they sin against you seven times in a day, yet repent seven times as well we are to forgive them seven times. What does this tell us? It tells us also we are not to judge a brother’s or sister’s repentance. After all If someone had sinned against me seven times in a day, and kept asking me to forgive them, I might think that they were not really sincere. Yet Jesus commands me to still forgive them and restore them. (Guzik) Jesus makes His command clear, if the individual repents we must forgive him or her.
But wait just a minute, what if the brother or sister never repented? Then what? Do we forgive them or not? Here we have to consider the purpose of Jesus addressing being sinned against by a brother or sister in the faith, namely restoration of the relationship among believers. That is the focus and the purpose. Jesus earlier instructions in Matthew 6:14-15 and Mark 11: 24-25, we are still to forgive even if the relationship cannot be restored. Don’t think for a moment we had been given an escape clause from the command to forgive. The apostles saw this right away and knowing how difficult this could be, they said to Jesus in verse five “Increase our faith!”
Pett makes the following points concerning their request for greater faith: So with absolute confidence in their Master they ask Him to give them increased faith. He had previously given them faith to preach, heal and cast out evil spirits. Now they are asking for more faith so as to enable them to walk without causing others to stumble, and so as to enable them to continually forgive, to say nothing of the other attributes that they are going to need. They want to be men of such faith that they do not fail God. Jesus therefore points out that what they need is not a greater faith, but faith in a greater God. If their recognition of the greatness of God is sufficient they will be able to do remarkable things, for they have been chosen for that very purpose.
With this in mind, we might consider in our prayers asking for more faith in God, knowing the greater our faith in Him, the more capable we become following His will and His Son in our lives, continually forgiving.