"If your brother sins, rebuke him"

"Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him." (Lk 17.3)

One more thing I've struggled a lot with while I've been here is how to keep loving people even when they do wrong. My preferred response has been to try to forgive (whether they ask or not) and try to set an example through my own actions, but not directly challenge them on the fault. Not that I thought it was wrong to directly confront people. But I just so seldom see it done well, and I don't have much experience of it myself.

What I've found, however, is that when I see a significant fault and do not challenge it, it seems to become harder and harder to to continue to love and serve that person. It feels like my heart starts to harden towards them.

I tried to deny this for a while, since I don't believe someone else's wrongdoing can cause my heart to harden, or cause me to do wrong towards them. Yet it became clear that my love was indeed growing cold in some cases. This caused me to focus more closely on what was happening; and what was the most Christlike response in a situation like this (which led me to the verse quoted above). And I came to the conclusion that it wasn't their fault that was causing my hardness of heart, but my own fault.

Because what God was calling me to do in that situation was to challenge the wrong. "If your brother sins, rebuke him." And I was refusing to do that. It's not easy, of course, to challenge someone and it's very difficult to do it well and with love. But if we don't respond to God's impetus to challenge a brother or sister, we start to cut ourselves off from God; if we don't let his love flow through us (to call someone back from sin) then we begin to quench that love in ourselves. So it's not just a matter of doing that person a favor. Or doing what is best for good community life (though both of these are true). It's also a matter of staying in touch with God ourselves. If we will not obey and do the hard, loving things that God asks of us, then we cut ourselves off from that Love.

I think now I can see rebuke (or challenge) more as an act of obedience, rather than an act of intrusion or manipulation or just venting emotions (as long as it's always done from a position of weakness, not power). And I need to look more intentionally for God's guidance and for opportunities to serve in this way.