Forgiving Families: Luke 17:1-10

Focus Passage: Luke 17:1-10 (NIV)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

The apostles said to the 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.

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Read Luke 17:1-10 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

This journal’s passage contains one of Jesus’ famous statements on forgiveness. However, too often, we are quick to generalize and broaden Jesus’ words when we should instead keep them as specific as He spoke them.

In verses 3-4, Jesus says, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

The difference I see in what this passage says when compared with how we see it is important. Jesus says “brother” (some translations, like the NIV, include sister); and we immediately generalize His use of this word to mean spiritual “brothers” (fellow Christians), neighbor “brothers” (those living near us), or teammate “brothers” (those we work/play with). However, Jesus says “brothers”, and while all the previous descriptions could work, the most often ignored is the biological family “brothers or sisters”.

The reason I think this passage refers first to the biological family is this: If someone sins against you and you then rebuke them, afterwards, if they repent and the relationship persists, then all is well; but if they repeatedly sin against you, you still must rebuke them, but they will be less likely to repent, and the relationship will likely end. But biological family members (“brothers and sisters”) often have arguments, fights, disagreements, but ending the relationship technically isn’t possible because of the biological connection. One could disown a family member, cutting all communication with them, but ignoring the other person does not break the connection that is still there.

It also is possible that Jesus said “brother” because He knew families are prone to having the most fights, disagreements, and arguments of any of the relationships. As the saying goes, “You can pick your friends, but not your family.” This means that while forgiveness is important in friendships, it is significantly more important in families.

Jesus came and died for you and your brothers and sisters. If God loves them that much, we should be willing to work out our differences.

Also with how this passage is worded, it implies that forgiveness isn’t necessary if the other person doesn’t repent. I see forgiveness being an internal decision, whereas working on the relationship is an external decision. If there is no way the person who sinned can repay their debt, then we should forgive, regardless of whether they asked or not because this frees us from the trap of bitterness. Only if they come to us and repent should we then be open to working on the relationship.

Forgiveness and repentance is important in friendships, and it is really, really important in families.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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