Summary: This story looks at and applies Jesus' teachings in Luke 17:1-6 alongside the experience of Corrie Ten Boom.

There were many things that were once thought to be impossible, but are now considered to be quite common and ordinary. The idea of man landing on the moon or going to space was once thought to be impossible, but that notion was shattered in the 1960s. The idea of people surviving heart transplants once seemed to be wishful thinking but that is now done on a frequent basis. Even things like cloning or test tube babies are not that uncommon. The concept of being able to have your entire music collection instantly accessible in the palm of your hand with an iPod used to be a thought limited to movies like Back to the Future II. Now, seemingly everyone has something that can hold all of your music like that. Things that were once thought to be impossible are beginning to be done on a frequent basis. In the Gospel reading, Jesus talks about how the seemingly impossible can be done with faith.

Jesus begins by talking about our responsibility of watching out for the faith of others by teaching us about offending and forgiving. He says, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” The greek word for “Temptations to sin,” is skandalon. It is where we get our English word, “scandal” from. This word does mean “temptations to sin,” but carries with it the idea of apostasizing or falling away from the faith. These are sins and temptations that offend and damage the faith of others. These are actions that can lead others astray. Some examples are when church leaders get into an affair, or embezzle funds, or get a DUI. Sins like these damage and offend the faith of others. It can lead others away from the faith since a leader did these things. The same can be said with false doctrine, or impious living. These too give other Christians temptations to fall away from the Christian faith.

Jesus shows His seriousness in verse two, when He says, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Jesus is looking out for the “little ones.” These are those who are young in age, and it also includes those who are recent or new believers. Jesus does not want their faith damaged or offended by the sins of other Christians. He does not want our misconduct to lead others astray.

Now if this wasn’t a difficult teaching and stern warning, Jesus continues with something just as hard: rebuking and forgiving others. Jesus starts by saying, “Pay attention to yourselves!” We need to keep an eye on our own lives and actions if we are going to rebuke the sins of the others. We need to watch ourselves lest we fall into sin, or think we are better than we actually are. He continues by saying, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Rebuking other Christians when they sin is not easy, fun, or something that we like to do. People get defensive and can get hurt feelings. It certainly isn’t easy to do in a society like ours where Christians are frequently labeled as judgmental, hypocrits, bigots, intolerant, old-fashioned, close-minded, etc. However, we need to speak out.

Imagine you saw someone pick up an unmarked glass in a laboratory that you knew to contain some dangerous chemicals. As the person has the glass in their hand, they begin moving it to their mouth to take a drink. Do you remain silent, letting someone drink the contents of that glass to their harm, or do you say, “No! Don’t drink that! It is dangerous!”

Sin is harmful and destructive. We are to let our brothers and sisters know when they err or fall away, but there is a fine line in doing so. We should keep some of these thoughts in mind when we correct or rebuke others because every situation is different. One: is this rebuking needful or profitable for the other person? Was it an intentional or unintentional sin? Is this sin misleading them? Will this rebuking help their faith life? Two: What is the setting? Are you in a public or private setting? What is the best place, setting, and time to speak the truth in love? Three: What is the goal of your rebuking? Is to forgive and lead the person to repentance, like Jesus says? Or is it to embarrass, beat up on, or to criticize the other person? Jesus says we are to rebuke, but more importantly, forgive, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

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