The combination of rebuking and forgiving makes the Christian relationship unique in this world. In Luke 17:1, Jesus had warned, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they come!”
We are so prone to disobeying that we must watch out for each other and be open to rebuke.
James said the same thing: “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2). Since no one is a “perfect man,” except Jesus (2 Cor 5:21), then everyone is going to offend someone at some time.
If this is our tendency, then we should all frequently be rebuked (or be forced to recognize our own sins), repent, ask forgiveness, and be restored. This repeated cycle requires a certain healthy humility and vulnerability.
The progressive command to “continually be watching out for yourselves” can never be ignored. However, this is a plural command, thus it is a corporate command. Jesus commanded us to care for each other: “Continually be watching one another.”
The command to rebuke means “to charge someone as being blamable, strongly censure.” It is the task of every one of us to keep each other from being destroyed or from destroying others by sin. Yes, you are your “brother’s keeper” (Gen 4:9). Such a confrontation requires prayerfulness, humility, a commitment to forgive, and openness.
In the next verse, Jesus said they had to forgive up to seven times “in a day.” The rabbis taught that to forgive three times in a day made a perfect man. Later, when Jesus talked about the threefold step of confrontation for sin (Matt 18:15–17), Peter blurted out a question that he did not believe Jesus would take seriously: “How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (quoting from the earlier discussion).
Jesus must have wanted to chuckle, but He responded, “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy times seven!” (Matt 18:21–22). He was saying, “Forgive the penitent always, unconditionally, just as I do you!”
All the apostles could say to this command was, “Lord, increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). It was not any easier for Peter then than it is for us today, but we must obey. Are you open to rebuke?
“Lord, when I sin, help me to be willing to be rebuked and to take action to change my behavior. Only with this attitude can I be ready to rebuke another as Your Spirit guides me through the word.”
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