Forgiveness, Correction & Faith

Luke 17: 1-6
Tit 1: 1-9/ Ps 24: 1b-6

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
(Luke 17:3)

Sin is deadly, so believe firmly
Repentance is what we most need;
Forgive fully, and don’t grow weary
Serving the Lord in every good deed.

Jesus taught His disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” And the apostles said to the Lord, “Lord, increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Luke 17:1-6)

Reflection

A few week ago, an old friend took me out for dinner when we visited his hometown. A wealthy man with a taste for the good life, he was separated from his wife (and his second), but said he was happy with his “bachelor life” (at 67??). Our conversation had become lively, and turned to the subject of homosexuals and transgenders. Perhaps due to the influence of a few bottles of beer, he jokingly said, “So you see, even God makes a mistake.” I have never considered homosexuality “abnormal” or “a mistake”, and the remark for me was downright blasphemous (God is perfect in everything). But I hesitated to correct him, taking the option of being courteous to my host instead. I later asked for the Lord’s forgiveness for failing to defend Him.

Jesus tells us to “rebuke him” if only to let our neighbor know how concerned we are that because of his error, “a millstone tied around his neck” might become his fate. A kind but firm correction would have been for his own good. “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall” (1 John 2:10). Unless we stand up for the truth and repudiate the wrong, our friends may not be aware of or recognize their mistakes or sins, be sorry for them, and stop doing them. As Christ’s followers, it is our Christian duty to ‘point out’, to ‘reprove, to correct’ a wrong or mistake committed. In our first reading, Paul’s letter to Titus said God’s steward must be “a lover of goodness… holding fast to the truth… so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents” (Titus 1:8,9).

Correcting a fault, however, is a lot easier than forgiving an offender, especially if he wrongs us more than once. But again our Lord teaches us that when a brother comes to us, we must be ready to forgive him as often as he repents. How can we “love our enemies” if we cannot even forgive our friends? Like His apostles, we will indeed find this almost impossible to accomplish. But as our Lord teaches us, this is possible through the power of faith. In the case of a friend who is hard to forgive, or an enemy who is hard to love, we must pray to God to increase our faith, (emphasis mine) because it is only by His miracle of grace that forgiveness can happen.

Increase our faith, Father, so that we can follow Jesus’ example of forgiveness. Amen.

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