So watch yourselves!
“If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”
(Luke 17:3-4, NLT)
In verse three Luke is quoting Jesus as using the vocative sense in the imperative, “So watch yourselves!” This is a command denoting that there is not another option in your response to a brother who sincerely asks for forgiveness. In order to understand these verses it is important to understand them in the context of the whole chapter. The chapter thematically breaks down as follows:
(1) Not causing your brother to sin—verses 1-2
(2) What to do when your brother sins—verses 3-4
(3) Faith and the disciple—verses 5-10
(4) The healing of the ten lepers and the gratitude of one—verses 11-19
(5) Jesus’ teaching on the coming of the kingdom of God—verses 20-37
The struggle is to determine what the relationship is between these “parts” of the whole. Some, indeed, despair of finding any unity in this chapter at all. Plummer, in his commentary on Luke, entitles this section, “Four sayings of Christ”. He goes on to say, “They have no connection with the much longer utterances which precede them.… And the four sayings appear to be without connection one with another. I agree with Robert L. (Bob)Deffinbaugh in acknowledging the difficulty which these verses pose for us in finding a unified theme, but this, for Robert Deffinbaugh, is simply a “tension of the text,” a difficulty which serves to stimulate my study of this text. It is Robert Deffinbaugh’s presupposition that Luke has been developing a very orderly argument, even as he has indicated in his introduction (1:1-4). This order is not, to the best of his understanding, chronological, but logical—it is a logical development of the gospel, its issues, and its opposition. It is similar to the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 in which dispensationalist attempt to approach the events that Christ is speaking of in a chronological order but instead it is a logical sequence of thoughts and to attempt to superimpose a system that would attempt to show time sequence so that one could prove a rapture event at a certain moment in time defeats the unity of the chapters message.
Throughout the book of Luke the Pharisee’s are increasing their assaults concerning the message of the kingdom of God is a now event. For Jesus the central message of this “Good News” is that man can be reconciled to God and this reconciliation in our vertical relationship has tremendous consequence in our horizontal relationships with each other. The tension is sharpened in these verses in which Jesus is reminding us of three things by the use of the expression “Your brother”:
- First, Jesus may be reminding the disciples that they are not called to rebuke those in the world in general but instead those who they have close relationship with and who know the truth. This would be consistent with the Apostle Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians that it one should not associate one who knows Christ but continues to sin but this does not apply to those in the world that sin in ignorance (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).
- Second, Jesus may be reminding the disciples that their sinning brother is still their brother. We cannot disown them like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal son.
- Third, the fact that we are responsible to rebuke and to forgive our brother implies that we must also be alert to the kinds of sin which he or she is most likely to commit. If this brother is close to us, then he is also like us, which means that we must begin by being sensitive to those sins which so easily can beset us. How easy it is to focus on the (visible, cf. 16:15) sins of others, rather than on the (perhaps more socially acceptable) sins of which we are guilty. We may, for example, march on the abortion clinics and speak against homosexuality, but we go easy on sins such as pride, self-righteousness, greed, and ambition—those sins which are most characteristic of us.
The tension of these verses is that because one receives forgiveness they also must be able to give forgiveness and this is an act of faith. The sword being the Word always cuts two-ways. It cuts the one who has received an offense as much as it cuts the one who is committing the offense. Jesus exaggerated use of seven times seventy in answering the question of how often one is to forgive is denoting the power of forgiveness that has been afforded to each one of us. Reconciliation always involves two people who have to agree to being reconciled. Forgiveness only requires one person to engage in the act and it is the power for one to be free.
The tension of forgiveness is the demand of Al Soto placing his need for justice on the Cross. There are two points on the Cross and one point is that God appeased His own wrath toward us and the other point Christ exercised mercy towards me by holding back that which I did deserve. Forgiveness is the key to everything and it liberates me to respond to the fresh vision that the Lord has for us. The word resentment literally means “to rehearse again.” It takes an enormous amount of energy to continue to rehearse offenses that have been committed towards me. The energy expended on rehearsing these offenses could be better spent pursuing the purpose that Christ has for me. No one person can hold your destiny hostage …. But you have the power to hold your destiny hostage …. By not forgiving! In the words of one my mentors Jerry Cook, “Make forgiveness a lifestyle, not just an event.”
“Father, I ask that you help me live in the tension of forgiveness of reminding me what your sacrifice on the Cross has afforded me. Help me not to fall prey to the derailing of the purpose of my own life by rehearsing the offenses of others towards me but instead I embrace that on my journey justice is not on my terms but on yours. As I forgive I allow myself to be free rather than becoming a slave to my own lust of being right for the sake of being right on my terms. I surrender to your unconditional love and desire to be an infectious carrier of your love to others. In Jesus Name, Amen!
 Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to S. Luke, The International Critical Commentary Series, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1969), p. 398.
 Robert L. (Bob)Deffinbaugh, Taking Sin Seriously (Luke 17:1-4), June 24th 2004, https://bible.org/seriespage/taking-sin-seriously-luke-171-4