“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!.” (Luke 17:3-5)
In this, Luke’s use of ‘Faith’ is a double tradition teaching of Jesus ‘On Forgiveness’. The variations are so noteworthy that the verses are contextually different for Matthew. Verse 3, for Matthew, speaks of telling your brother of his fault between you and him alone. If he listens, Jesus says in Matthew, “you have gained your brother”. Verse 4, Matthew records as a question asked by Peter, “Lord, How often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?” To which Jesus replies, “Seventy times seven.”
Luke alone records Jesus’ teachings ‘On Forgiveness’ as a ‘formula’: SIN—REBUKE; REPENT—FORGIVE. If we have not gotten the critical nature of these ‘final four’ terms as they weight heavily in any religious life, Luke precedes this with the warning, ‘prosexete/ take heed, be on guard’!
The Biblical history of ‘amartano/sin’ is one that merits full disclosure. To be sure, from the Genesis account of ‘The Fall’, throughout the coming of The Messiah— ALL is done by God to rescue (hu)man(ity) from sin and death. For the Gospel writers, Jesus IS VICTORIOUS! We have previously looked at His controversial work in the areas of SIN—FORGIVEness (which would get him killed!). Now, Luke calls attention to ‘epitimeson/Rebuke’ as reaction to sin by a brother, and ‘metan-oese/Repentance’ as a prerequisite to Forgiveness.
What a difficult task is given the Christian disciple here in first being ‘so on guard’ against sin in our own lives that we are able to point to sin, no, ‘rebuke’ sin in our brother!
When I ponder the times, the harvest of financial spending on two wars and (whoever got paid for them), I consider this new request for ‘700 Billion’ more? Foreclosures, a brand new kind of ‘homelessness’; unemployment; recession; depression; stock mar-ket crash; but,— in all that I see, I hear no voice speaking of the ‘foot’ that the Internal Revenue Services has placed upon the average taxpayer whose lives have changed so tremendously while bearing the burden of these payments. During my audit ‘I wept’, as Jesus did knowing that I would die trying to meet the burden that the IRS has placed upon my life— I die so that ??? might live in billion dollar houses! As I have heard so many others tell the same story, I ‘rebuke this sin’— HEY SOMEBODY, ANYBODY, I NEED TO BE BAILED OUT, TOO!
What a God-fearing task is given the Christian disciple here in being ‘so on guard’ against sin in our own (Christian) nation that we are able to ‘epitimeson/rebuke’ sin in Iraq and Afghanistan!
It is no small thing that after hearing these things the disciples would petition Jesus— ‘increase our faith’!
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