FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
LOVING ONE ANOTHER
CORRECTION AND FORGIVENESS
November 7, 2011
Today’s reading: Luke 17:1-6
In today’s gospel, Jesus teaches us two concrete ways by which we are to love one another. These are fraternal correction and forgiveness.
As an act of love, we are to correct one another. “If your brother sins, rebuke him” (Lk 17:3b). Sin is not of God. Serious sin breaks our relationship with God, and endangers our immortal soul. If we truly love our brethren, we should not want them remaining in a state of sin. As such, if we have the opportunity, we do fraternal correction. We point out, in a respectful way, where they have gone astray. We hope that by doing so, they will repent and turn back to God.
Oftentimes we are reluctant to correct others. This might be due to various reasons: not knowing how to, not wanting to hurt the other, being afraid, not wanting the bother, not wanting to strain our fraternal relationship. But if we have the opportunity to correct, not doing so is a failure in love. We would then fall short of our fundamental identity as a Christian, and that is one who loves.
We are indeed our brother’s keeper. This is especially the case for those who are servant leaders. They have taken on the very place of Christ. Jesus rebukes and corrects, out of love. In fact, he can be quite stern. He tells those who sin to cut off what causes them to sin (Mt 18:8-9). If we love as Jesus loves, then we must correct our brethren when they sin.
When we correct a sinner, the hopeful outcome is that they repent. Then, “if he repents, forgive him.” (Lk 17:3c). This presumes a situation where the brother has sinned against us (Mt 18:15). Whatever sin one has committed against us, when he repents, then we are to forgive. Again, this is not only the way of God, it is the way of true brotherly love. Repentance brings restoration. Repentance is the move of the sinner to bring restoration, while forgiveness is the response of the one sinned against. Brought together, it restores fraternal love, unity and peace.
Now oftentimes forgiving can be challenging. We have been hurt, so can we just let go? This is especially so if the sinner is a recidivist. But Jesus says, “And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” (Lk 17:4). Seven times in one day! He probably is not at all serious in repenting. But the sinner’s task is to repent, while ours is to forgive. We do our part, even if he has not really done his.
Consider our own sins against the Lord. Consider how many times you confess the same sins over and over again. Should the Lord then no longer forgive you?
Family life and community life are challenging environments where we will be put to the test often. There will always be family and community members, including ourselves, who will do wrong and hurt others. We face these challenges with two weapons of righteousness–correction and forgiveness.
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