“Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him” (Leviticus 19:17).
Years ago, a television commercial reminded people that “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” In that same spirit, our text reminds us that caring Christians don’t let their friends grieve the Spirit by continuing in sin (Eph. 4:30). If you truly love a brother in Christ who persists in a path of transgression, you need to rebuke him, “and not suffer sin upon him.”
The problem is, when we think of rebuking someone, we generally think of a drill sergeant chewing a soldier up one side and down the other! And it’s true that God once said, “I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes” (Ezekiel 25:17). But a quick check of the context of that verse will show that God was speaking of furiously rebuking His enemies. If all rebukes were supposed to be “furious” rebukes, God wouldn’t have had to specify that He planned to rebuke the Philistines “with furious rebukes.”
Yet how often well-meaning Christians seek to obey Leviticus 19:17 by unloading on a brother like a nuclear bomb when he sins! This despite the fact that the dictionary defines “rebuke” as to chide or scold someone. And this despite the fact that every time we’re told what men say when they rebuke someone in the Bible, they always use words like the ones Joseph’s father used to rebuke him:
“…his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee…?” (Genesis 37:10).
Rather than going ballistic on his son, Jacob reasoned with him, asking about his dream, and explaining in a respectful manner why he thought Joseph was wrong to be saying such things. Later, when God Himself “rebuked” Balaam (II Pet. 2:15,16), He chose to do so through the humblest of animals, to teach us that rebukes should always be delivered in the spirit of humility. Consider the deferential words of the Father’s rebuke:
“What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times…Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee?” (Numbers 22:28-30).
Speaking through the dumb animal, God gently rebuked His prophet, reasoning with him, trying to get him to think about what he was doing and consider the wrongfulness of his ways. Sort of like the Lord later “rebuked” the apostles when they wanted to call fire down from Heaven on Samaria, saying, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:55,56).
In closing, it’s still true that if you “rebuke a wise man” that “he will love thee” (Pr. 9:8), and “he that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue” (Pr. 28:23). But these things are only true if you manage to rebuke your brother “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:2).
So remember, when it comes to rebukes, no nukes!
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.