Rebuking and Forgiving
Earlier we showed how easily we offend others and are offended by others. In this article we are going to discuss two areas when dealing with offenses: rebuking and forgiving. Seldom a day goes by that we do not unintentionally or purposely offend one another. It happens in the home, at work and at church. It could happen anytime we are around people.
In our study of Luke 17:3-4, consider first the warning. “Take heed to yourselves.” That is, concentrate on your own weakness instead of focusing on the weakness of others. Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 warns us of the danger and sin of judging and condemning others.
You are, no doubt, aware of the fact that forgiveness is a major theme of the Lord’s Prayer. It should be a major theme of our every day living. If you have problems forgiving others, I urge you to go to my GEMS category and read the life-changing article on HATRED and its physical consequences, written by a medical doctor.
Take time to read the wonderful story of the life of Joseph found in Genesis 37-50. In chapter 45 we read the very moving story of how he forgave his brothers who had been so cruel to him.
Another wonderful story of forgiveness is found in the life of David and his relationships with King Saul and also with low life such as Shimei. Read that story in II Samuel 16:5-13.
Thank God that He is forgiving. That truth is evident all through the Bible. Note, for example, Psalm 130. Remember Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness as He hung on the cross? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
One who has a problem with forgiving other has no business attempting to rebuke others.
Paul teaches in Galatians 5:14-15 that the purpose of rebuking is not to bite and devour another, as a small dog yaps and snaps at people. Rather, even in our rebuking of others, we are to edify and encourage one another. Be cautious of the mindset that God has called you to a ministry of rebuking others. These are people who give themselves to fault-finding. Imagine the depressing life of living your life focused on the faults of others! The Bible has much to say about such people. II Thessalonians 3:6-12. I Timothy 5:9-15, I Peter 4:14-15, Proverbs 20:3 and 26:17.
The Bible warns us to not waste our time and energy on rebuking scorners. Proverbs 13:1, 9:7-8. and 15:12. Read my article on FOOLS for more on this.
HOW TO REBUKE OTHERS
We are to confront lovingly and directly those who have offended us. It is not our calling to “chew them out” or “gang up on them” with others nor “try to straighten them out.”
We are warned in I Timothy 5:1 to rebuke not an Elder or a Pastor, but rather we are to intreat them as we would our father and we are to deal with the faults of younger men as brothers.
Older women are to be treated as mothers and younger women as sisters. In other words, deal with them tenderly and kindly.
Paul speaks of an occasion he rebuked a fellow Apostle and friend, Peter. Read about it in article #10 of FREEDOM. The reason Paul rebuked Peter publicly is because he had publicly compromised a Scriptural principle in order to try to be accepted. It was a shameful step on the part of Peter, but because Paul handled it firmly, but graciously, Peter accepted the rebuke and became a close friend of Paul’s, as revealed in II Peter 3:15.
Ephesians 4:15, 29-32 teaches us how to confront others, speaking the truth in love.
In Matthew 18:18-20 Jesus teaches a principle for dealing with interpersonal problems. Follow these steps and it works every time without causing hard feelings and enmity.
1. Confront the one who has offended you personally, privately, directly and lovingly.
You may solve the problem on that level and that will be the end of it.
2. If that does not work, bring one or two witnesses and try to settle the problem.
3. If that does not work, bring the problem to the attention of the church leaders and let the church take the appropriate action.
AFTER I’VE CONFRONTED AN ERRING, OFFENDING BROTHER, WHAT NEXT?
Watch for evidence of repentance. Matthew 3:8 If he repents, be quick to forgive him. If he fails again, perhaps repeatedly; keep on forgiving him, as Jesus taught in Mathew 18:21-22. To forgive seventy times seven is just another way of telling us to forgive repeatedly without keeping score.
What if he doesn’t repent? Then you have no one to forgive. You simply keep on praying for him and leave him in God’s hands; but you must not become bitter. Leave the vengeance to God. Romans 12:17-21. He can take care of vengeance much better than you or I. The wait may be a long time, as James 1:2-4 intimates. In the meantime, you may face tribulation. That’s OK. Romans 5:3-4 tells us that tribulation helps us learn patience. In the meantime, it is our responsibility to bear the infirmities of the weak, according to Romans 15:1-7.
Are you willing and anxious to forgive those who have offended you? Love does not keep accounts and records of offenses, as we learn in I Corinthians 13. Love forgives.
Forgiveness is a matter of the will and not our feelings, Colossians 3:13 teaches.
When we are aware of our own weaknesses, it is much easier to be thoughtful and patient and forgiving of those who fail and offend us. May I challenge you to memorize Galatians 6:1-3. I assure you that you will have occasion to use it almost every day of your life. Let us be quick to recognize our own sins and faults and confess them to God. and let us be patient with one another’s weaknesses.
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