Scripture: Leviticus 19:17b, ‘Rebuke your neighbour frankly so you will not share in his guilt.’
Observations: In word ‘neighbour’ in the Hebrew refers to anyone who lives nearby. It includes the person living next door, but also anyone, Jew or foreigner, who comes across your path. The phrase ‘rebuke frankly,’ is a superlative (which in the Hebrew is expressed as ‘rebuke rebuke’), and it may also be translated as rebuke greatly. It expresses the idea of taking something very seriously. The word ‘share’ is often translated as ‘bear,’ ‘carry,’ of ‘lift up.’ And the word ‘guilt’ is usually translated as sin i.e. something we are guilty of. This sounds very similar to a proverb, but rather than being a general truth, it is in fact a command. God isn’t saying we need to rebuke our neighbour frankly, or we may share in his guilt, but unless we do so we will share in his guilt. Cain asked the question ‘Am I my brother’s keeper (Gen 4:9), and this verse answers ‘Yes!’ We are responsible for how others live. If we don’t confront sin in their lives we share in their guilt. Deitrich Bonhoeffer said ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.’
Application: It’s important to remember that this law was written in the context of a theocracy (a nation ruled by God), which means that its application fits the context of the church better than the world. Paul says we aren’t to judge those outside the church, but those inside the church (1 Cor 5;12). When you see your brother or sister sin do you rebuke them? It’s not easy to rebuke someone. It has to be done with wisdom and grace, not in anger, or to put them down, but in love in order to encourage them and lift them up. Who do you need to lovingly confront about something?
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You confront sin in my life through Your word and Holy Spirit, and by doing so You make me more like Your Son Jesus, You grow and mature me. Lord, help me to encourage others in their journey with You in a way that is wise and gracious. May I not be silent in the face of sin. However protect me from a judgmental or a superior attitude, as if I don’t need rebuking as well. Lord, use me to build Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.