Luke 17:3-4 (TNIV)
3 So watch yourselves.“If a 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.
In this Scripture, in context, Jesus is speaking about how we deal directly with others around us. The focus is on the relationship we share, not just the condition of our heart. In other words, Jesus is speaking here to the apostles about what they should do…not just how they should be.
QUESTION: Is forgiving somone primarily for you or for them?
In that context, a few things struck me as “tough” concerning this Scripture: When I first read this Scripture – these words of Jesus – I wondered why the “if”? Because to bring reconciliation, forgiveness must be received as well as extended. If another person is unwilling to acknowledge his fault, they will not receive our forgiveness.
1. As far as relationships are concerned, is it important that the other person acknowledge their fault in order to receive forgiviness?
2. What does forgiviness do to our heart when we present it?
2. I have heard this verse often used out of context to justify severe admonishment.
First, what I see here is Jesus talking primarily about forgiveness and also about bringing a close friend, or fellow believer’s sin to a their attention with the purpose of restoring that person to God and also to us as well as those around him/her. This is called “rebuke”. In today’s world this word has often taken on a harsh quality.
IMPORTANT: The word for “rebuke” used here in Greek is “epitimao” (EP-EE-TEE-MO) which I find is an interesting word. According to Thayers Greek Definitions, it means both “to show honor, or to honor” as well as “to admonish”.
There are also other words in Greek that are translated as “rebuke” — but they were not used here. Let’s look at them:
1 Timothy 5:1-2 (TNIV)
Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
1 Timothy 5:20 (TNIV)
20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove [rebuke in many translations] before everyone, so that the others may take warning.
However, these are not the forms of “rebuke” used here.
The form of “rebuke” used here inLuke 17:3-4 is more of a constructive criticism. What Jesus is talking about here is speaking the truth in love. When we feel we must rebuke another Christian for a something they have done against us or a sin, we must check our attitude before we speak. Do I love the person? Am I willing to forgive? Unless rebuke is tied to forgiveness, it will not help the person.
Another very important thing I see in this Scripture, which I believe is often misunderstood, is the phrase, “if he repents, forgive him“. This, some would say, suggest that if he does not repent or turn from his sin that we should not forgive him.
However, I am reminded of Matthew 5:43 where Jesus, speaking of the Pharisees, says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” What’s interesting is that this comes from Leviticus 19:18. However, no Scripture explicitly says, “hate your enemy”. The Pharisees interpreted Leviticus 19:18 as teaching that they should love only those who love in return, “neighbor” referring to someone of the same nationality and faith.
Jesus goes on to say in verse 44-45 (Matthew 5:44-45), “ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. …” . Jesus explained that his followers would do the true intent of God’s law by loving their enemies as well as their neighbors.
I submit that, in similar fashion to Matthew 5:43, we must not add our own thoughts to this Scripture by assuming that if a brother/sister does not repent that we must NOT forgive them. Luke 17:3 simply does not state this.
1. What happens to our heart (and in our life) when we hate our enemies?
2. What happens to our heart (and in our life) when we love our enemies?
3. What does “love your enemies” look like?
4. If I forgive someone….does that mean that I condone their actions?
I still clearly see that Jesus told us to forgive. I believe that we can forgive yet not allow ourselves to become victims. Forgiveness is a condition of our heart.
Can I forgive my child while not allowing them to perpetuate their wrong (i.e. not allowing them to live in my home). Yes. Is my child creating their own “hell” or distance from me? Yes.
Do I believe that God loves us so much that He can forgive us though we do not repent? Yes. Does this mean that He condones my actions? No.
Does this mean that I reap what I sow through my sin? Yes. Again, forgiveness is a condition of OUR heart not of those whom we forgive.
Can I forgive someone yet not trust them? I believe yes. The matter of trust was taken away by THEIR actions. If I do something that would cause you to lose trust in me, whether I am repentant or not, I would expect that I would have to “gain” your trust back, if nothing else than but to demonstrate my sincerity.
I would not expect that you would forget and instantly trust me. Forgivness is a matter of the heart. I do not believe that by forgiving we become doormats. That person may still have to regain my trust. Yet I am still able to harbor no ill will, no thoughts of retribution, and indeed am able to pray for God’s blessing and understanding on the person. Jesus did this many times, “forgive them for they know not what they do….”.
Further, in the next verse (Luke 17:4), Jesus again uses the “seven times” illustration. Just as in Mathew 18:21-22, I believe Jesus is telling us to forgive, and forgive and forgive. To do all things in love.
1. What does it say about a friend that is willing to sit down in private with you and to let you know their perception of a situation?
2. How many times in our lives have we done wrong and needed forgiviness?
3. How many times have we been forgiven?
So, to answer the question “What do you think Jesus is saying in Luke 17:3-4?” Rebuking a fellow believer requires care–speaking in love. Finding fault and expressing it effectively are delicate proceedings. People are easily offended. In a first-time confrontation, try these six steps:
1. Pray for God’s help in getting your concern across without generating antagonism or defensiveness.
2. Approach the other person as a friend, not an adversary.
3. Imagine the most innocent possible reason for the other’s fault, not the most insidious or repulsive.
4. Make your approach a series of gradual and mutual agreements: “Could I speak to you?” “I’m having trouble with something. May I ask you about it?”
5. State your case once clearly. Repetition becomes the pounding of a sledgehammer.
6. Express gratitude for the conversation, confidence in the friendship, and cordial expectations for the future. Show that you harbor no doubt that the matter has been solved.
One of the greatest traits of Christian character is the capacity to forgive. Forgiviness involves restoration of broken relationships; ceasing to feel resentment for wrongs and offenses. Our past sins are behind us:
Jeremiah 31:34 (TNIV)
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”…
“salah” [SAW-LACH] is the Hebrew word here translated as “forgive.”….it’s meaning is, “to pardon”, “to spare” and this word is only used by God (in Hebrew)
Matthew 26:27-28 (TNIV)
27 Then he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
“aphesis” [AF-ES-IS] is the Greek word here translated as “forgiveness.”….it’s meaning is, “release from bondage or imprissonment”, “to pardon, to let go as if it had never been committed”
We should forgive as we have been forgiven:
Ephesians 4:32 ( TNIV )
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
“charizomai” [KHAR-ID-ZOM-AHEE] is the Greek word here translated as “forgiving.”….it’s meaning is, “to restore one to another”, “to give graciously, give freely”
Luke 6:37 ( TNIV )
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
“apoluo” [AP-OL-OO-O] is the Greek word here translated as “forgive.”….it’s meaning is, “to put away”, to send away”, “to let go free”, “to release”
1 John 1:9 ( TNIV )
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
“aphiemi” [AF-EE-AY-MEE] is the Greek word translated here for “forgive”….it’s meaning is, “to send away”, “to let go”, “to send forth”, “to give up and keep no longer”.