Luke 17:1-10 (ESV)
1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 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. 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
Jesus taught his disciples about interacting with others. He began by noting that in this life all will face temptations to sin. But he cautioned that the one who leads others into sin will be held accountable. In fact, it would better for that person to experience a harsh death rather than do anything to harm another soul. The point Jesus made was that the disciples needed to be careful that they weren’t bringing spiritual harm to anyone. Then Jesus exhorted them, “Pay attention to yourselves!” His followers must be continually on guard against saying or teaching anything that would lead someone else into sin. Just think of how many people throughout the ages have driven others to follow a false gospel. They should not expect God to treat their crimes lightly. Jesus continues in verse 3 by instructing his disciples that if one of them sinned, the other must confront him. And if the sinner repented, the other must forgive him. The disciples were to be “team players” in the arenas of rebuke and restoration. In order to keep the Christian community upright and holy, sometimes when correction would be necessary. And to keep the Christian community whole and unified, sometimes restoration would be necessary. The disciples needed to watch out for one another without destroying their relationships with each other.
So how do we watch out for one another without wrecking our Christian community? In verse 4, Jesus says, “If he sins against you.” So when a believer wrongs another believer, the offended party is to correct the one who sinned against her. She is not to call a friend or two, but she is to go directly to the one who sinned against her and seek the offender’s repentance. If the offender is sorry and wishes to stop the sinful behavior, then the offended person must forgive and move past the transgression. Our willingness to reprove and our desire to restore will be required again and again in our Christian relationships. Even if the sinner were to respond with brokenness and ask for forgiveness seven times in one day, Jesus said she is to be restored. Has a fellow believer sinned against you, and have you broken your relationship with her? If so, be willing to confront her about her wrong behavior and forgive her when she is sorry. Remember, Jesus said you must forgive.