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Rebuking Your Brother

We (my family and I) discussed this tonight in devotions because there was a conversation about a Christian friend that is now going to activities that would, from a biblical perspective, be considered worldly.

We discussed this matter and how we might respond when we know our friends are doing something wrong.

We have three options:

1. Join them.

2. Say nothing to them.

3. Rebuke them.

Consider Leviticus 19:17

(The numbers and letters in the verse and commentary each have a corresponding note below)

17 zThou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: athou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, ||and not suffer sin upon him. 18 bThou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but cthou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.

z 1 John 2:9, 11. & 3:15.

a Matt. 18:15. Luke 17:3. Ecclus. 19:13. Gal. 6:1.

|| Or, that thou bear not sin for him. Gen. 20:3. Lev. 4:3 in the Heb. So ch. 22:9. Num. 18:22. 32. Compare ch. 22:16. Rom. 1:32. 1 Tim. 5:22. 2 John 11.

b Deut. 32:35. Prov. 20:22. Rom. 12:17, 19. Heb. 10:30.

c Matt. 5:43. & 22:39. Cited Matt. 19:19. Mark 12:31. Luke 10:27. Rom. 13:9. Gal. 5:14. James 2:8.

"One should not hate his brother but should rebuke him when he is in sin and thus not share in his guilt (19:17; Gen 21:25; Prov 9:8; 28:23; Job 40:2).142 This command may be the legal background behind God’s commission to Ezekiel to act as a watchman. If Ezekiel did not warn his brothers who were in sin, God held him accountable, and he was subject to punishment (Ezek 3:18, 33:6-8). The word “rebuke” thus has an instructional connotation as seen in its use regarding children in Prov 3:12, 28:23. The corrective rebuke would not involve seeking revenge or bearing a grudge143 but rather loving your neighbor as yourself (19:18).144 Love for neighbor and coming to the aid of enemies is also included in other sections of Israel’s legal code (Exod 23:4–5, Deut 22:1–4). Kellogg captures the connection between rebuke and love: “Most instructive it is to find it suggested by this order, as the best evidence of the absence of hate, and the truest expression of love to our neighbor, that when we see him doing wrong we rebuke him.”145 This statement, “love your neighbor as yourself,” forms a climax to this first major section, and it was regarded by some as the central principle of the Law.146 The significance of the verse is also highlighted by the fact that Jesus and Paul both cited this verse as a summary of the duties one has to his fellow man (Matt 22:39–40, Rom 13:9)."

142 For the history of interpretation of Lev 19:17, see J. Kugel, “On Hidden Hatred and Open Reproach: Early Exegesis of Leviticus 19:17,” HTR 80 (1987): 43–61.

143 The verb translated “bear a grudge” (נָטַר) is often used in agricultural contexts describing those who keep or guard a vineyard (Cant 1:6; 8:11–12). More related to the use of the verb in Lev 19:18 is the meaning of keeping one’s anger or wrath (Nah 1:2; Ps 103:9; Jer 3:5, 12; Amos 1:11; M. Wilson, נָטַר [nāṭār], TWOT 2:576).

144 A. Malamat argues that as the phrase אהב ל parallels עזר, “help,” in 2 Chr 19:2; so the main point in expressing love for a neighbor is that of assisting or being beneficial to the neighbor (BAR 16[1990]: 50–51). The notion of “hate your enemy” in Matt 5:43 does not come from the OT but rather from Jewish sectarian beliefs (1 QS 1:4, 10; 2:4–9; 1QM 4:1–2; 15:6; 1QH 5:4, see D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” EBC [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984], 8:157).

145 Kellogg, Leviticus, 401–2.

146 Rabbi Akiba (see Levine, Leviticus, 130).

Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus, vol. 3A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 258–259.

The Biblical answer is to show your love and rebuke them.

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