I was reading Leviticus 19 in my journey through the Bible and was struck by the verse just before the famous “love your neighbor as yourself” verse.
Here it is: “Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.” (Leviticus 19:17 NIV)
Here it is in context in another translation: “You must not hate your brother in your heart. You must surely reprove your fellow citizen so that you do not incur sin on account of him. You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:17-18 NET)
I thought that was interesting. It has always been a real struggle for me to rebuke anyone. This is mostly because I doubted that any rebuking I would do would come from a place of love.
Jesus quoted the above Scripture when asked what the most important command in Scripture? He was asked this once by an “expert” in the Torah:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’(Duet. 6:5) This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’(Lev. 19:18) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40 NIV)
So often in today’s society we think that “tolerance” is love, when in reality it is just the opposite. If you saw someone in a kayak heading down a river and knew a fatal waterfall is just beyond them, wouldn’t it be unloving not to do everything in your power to stop them and save them? Yet in our society we are told we ought to be tolerant of their right to explore rivers so don’t make them feel bad or upset for their choices. “That would not be loving”, so says the world.
I got pissed off the other day thinking about the fact that so many enemies of God are demanding of their loved ones, “It’s me or God. Make your choice. You can’t have us both.”
Let me explain.
Say your Christian friend or neighbor, brother or sister, parent or child is shacking up (we all know someone who is). Of course they just want to be accepted (as we all do) just as they are with their chosen lifestyle. But you, the Christian who loves and obeys Jesus (?), you want them to love Jesus and obey him too! And don’t we all agree this is the very best thing any of us could do? BUT, they stubbornly refuse to repent and so you are left with a difficult choice. Either you follow Scripture and rebuke them and likely suffer loss of “relationship” OR you accept them the way they are with the choices they have made. This is the demand they make of you.
How dare they hold you hostage like this and make you a partner in their sins! They are cruel!
I admit it. I accepted them. I refrain from rebuking because I didn’t really love them. And to top it off I’m not loving God in this either. But guess what? I get praised by the world for being “loving”. I get acceptance from society for being tolerant.
How loving is it to tolerate our friends, neighbors, and most especially our own family to their own destruction? The way I see it, tolerance is the enemy to love! Tolerance condemns! Tolerance also reveals a lack of real faith.
John the Baptist didn’t tolerate Herods sin of shacking up with his brother Philips wife. He could have kept his mouth shut and avoided the hurt Herod would bring his way but he did not. For your and my benefit he did not. His principles and his God were of more value to him than his life. Eventually he lost his head… literally.
Do I have the courage to love my neighbor like that? Do you?
BUT, the good news is that we all have the wonderful privilege of repenting from our sins! YEA!!!
I repent of all my sins and I also repent of refraining to bluntly rebuke you when I see you sinning! (In love of course). You can do the same for me.
May God give us the wisdom and courage to do as His loving Spirit directs.
Update: Is this a New Testament idea? How do we rebuke others the way God would have us to, saturated in the love of Jesus? How do we follow Christ’s example in this? Paul’s example? (Paul said, “follow me as I follow Christ”).