Failing to rebuke a sinning brother or sister withholds from him the very love God calls us to demonstrate. Wise parents understand this. We believe God’s Word in Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Child discipline can be painful—to both child and parent—but it displays true parental love.
The church should be a reconciling body of believers who help each other be reconciled with God and others when we go astray. The foundation for this is the initiative God has taken in Jesus to reconcile us to Himself. Romans 1 and 3 describe God’s righteous wrath against us because of our sin. But by His grace, God poured out that wrath, not upon us, but upon His own Son, Jesus Christ, our substitute. Romans 5 and Romans 8 tell us we were once enemies of God. We hated Him in our hearts, but through Christ, God changed our hearts, so we now love Him. His divine love poured into our hearts by His Spirit can now enable the church to be a family of brothers and sisters who seek to redeem fractured relationships like our Savior.
Love: The Heartbeat of Redemptive Discipline
What will it take to cultivate this vision? The simple yet profound answer is love—love for God and love for our neighbor. Do we love God and each other enough to pursue each other when one of us turns away from the Lord? And is it really the most loving thing we can do? Let me read and comment on some words from God that plainly connect love and discipline, love and rebuke, love and the efforts we must make to rescue each other within God’s family.
Let’s start back in Leviticus 19:17-18, “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Here we find the Old Testament origin of what our Lord Jesus taught as the second great commandment. One way we demonstrate godly love is by rebuking one another when we sin. To not rebuke your brother or sister is to hate him.
Proverbs 27:5-6 declares, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Enemies flatter, friends rebuke. Enemies kiss you, friends wound you.