” So watch yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”
What does it mean to rebuke someone?
The dictionary definition of the word rebuke is
“To tell someone that they have behaved badly. The usual word is to tell them off.”
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The Greek word used for rebuke is epitimesas. The word implies an emphatic, solemn charge; it’s meaning being strictly, to lay a penalty upon one, and thence, to charge under penalty. Wow!
Did Jesus just say that? To rebuke a fellow believer when they sin or wrong us? To open our mouth and voice out our displeasure by rebuking them for what they just did or said to us? In other words to tell them off? It is worth noticing that the Greek form of the word used here epetimesen is the same root that was used in Jesus’ rebuke of the raging storms that put fright in the Twelve.
And they went and woke Him, saying, “Master ,Master, we are perishing!”. And He awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; and they ceased, and there was a calm.
Here, as soon as the wind and the waves began to misbehave in the presence of Christ, He told them off, rebuked them, and immediately, there was calm.
Was Jesus advocating for a less than courteous approach to a brother or sister who wrongs us and predisposes us to temptations of anger, bitterness, to sin? Jesus? Yes. That’s right! He said to rebuke them. Tell them off!
In fact, that was the practice in the early church. The story of Ananias and Sapphira’s conspiracy to lie to Peter is quite a familiar one. Peter’s open rebuke was meant to evoke repentance. But they died as a result of their adamance and therefore a lack of repentance. (Acts 5: 3-9).
The ultimate outcome of Peter’s rebuke was positive: ” *Great fear gripped the entire Church and everyone else who heard what had happened*” (Acts 5:11). Much like the calmness that resulted from Jesus rebuke of the stormy sea.
The fear of God fell on all the people after that.
We could speculate that pride at being revealed as liars was the greatest hindrance to repentance from Ananias and his wife. Why were they lying about the price they got from their land? To appear generous and sincere in the eyes of the others to receive cheap recognition and respect. To back down now would be disgraceful. So they were each adamant that was the true price. Pride will keep us from repentance and admitting to our wrongdoing when rebuked.
Peter was himself rebuked to the face by Paul as a result of his hypocrisy in refraining from eating together with some gentiles when the brothers from Jerusalem came to visit.
In Mark 16:14, we read that Jesus, after His resurrection and repeated visits to the Eleven, rebuked them for their lack of belief in Him. Yes, He told them off! In no uncertain terms.
And He has promised to tell off anyone who calls Him Lord, Lord, but refuses to do His Father’s will.
Today’s church with the narcissistic and unchristian agenda of promoting the self, of discovering self, and of “pushing human rights above the rights that Christ has to us“, promoting “free -thinking” and privacy; and being “politically correct” , tend to frown on obedience to Jesus’ prescribed line of action to keeping and preserving order and unity in His Church.
A Rebuke was meant to bring repentance and watchfulness in our dealings with one another. Rebuking is not judging! We are to tell it as it is when it comes to sin or wrongdoing. We are to call people to order when they conduct themselves inappropriately. Sadly in these times, pride is keeping many of us from accepting our faults, repenting of them, and making peace with those we wrong. We cling to our so called rights, and challenge the rights of those who rebuke us when we go wrong. Every true Christian has surrendered their rights to Christ.
Let us uphold and cling to the teachings of Christ, who will judge His Church soon.
Let us rebuke the offending brother, and let those of us who get a rebuke for wrongdoing be gracious and humble enough to admit and seek forgiveness from those we wrong.
Above all, let us be bold and courageous to rebuke those who behave in an ungodly manner. Rebuke them, don’t brush under the carpet to nurture an evil root of bitterness.
That is the teaching of Christ, our Master.
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