I’ve been thinking about the great Bible class we had Sunday morning taught by Will Hanstein. The discussion centered around the warning Jesus gives about not causing others to stumble (Luke 17:1,2). Mr. Hanstein pointed out that our actions and words can influence whether or not others go to Heaven. He then said that Jesus tells us in the very next verse how to keep from causing others to stumble: “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). Mr. Hanstein challenged us to consider how we’re doing with this difficult command. It occurred to me that there’s one significant thing that would make this command easier for all of us, and that is having genuine relationships. If we really know each other, rebuking and forgiving are powerful and effective. If we don’t really know each other, we risk abusing the very safeguard Jesus put in place for His “little ones.”
If I don’t really know you, I won’t care enough to rebuke you. Why should I? It’s none of my business how you choose to live your life. Right? We don’t feel this way at all when one we dearly love is in trouble spiritually. It takes courage to confront someone who’s entangled in sin. But if we care about them, we’re more willing to do it, no matter how painful.
If I don’t really know you, I might misjudge you. I might feel the need to admonish you for something because I assigned motives that weren’t really there. Yet when we know and care about others, we will give them the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst.
If I don’t really know you, a rebuke from me may appear self-righteous rather than loving, no matter how valid. If we hardly ever talk to someone, naturally they will not welcome any sudden interest in their spiritual welfare.
If I do know you, I will humbly rebuke you in a timely manner. I won’t wait until it’s too late. (As Mr. Hanstein pointed out, a rebuke is needed when someone is caught up in sin and not doing anything about it, not when someone is aware of their sin and trying to change.) When we know and care about others, we won’t put off talking to them, lest they ask, “Why come to me now, after all this time?”
If I do know you, I will be eager to forgive. Like the father of the prodigal son, we rush to welcome back with open arms those we care about. If we don’t really know someone, we may not be as diligent in reassuring them of our joy and love.
Genuine relationships spell the difference in how we handle Luke 17:3. It will keep us from abusing the command (being too eager to rebuke because we see the worst in others), and it will help us carry out the command (being motivated by love to humbly rebuke and forgive those who need it). There may be Christian brothers and sisters who sit on the other side of the auditorium that we don’t know very well. Let’s build genuine relationships so we can give (and receive) what Jesus put in place as safeguards for our souls.
Prayer for Today: Help me, Lord, to care enough to get to know and love my Christian family.