You shall not hate your brother in your heart: you shall in any wise rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin on him.
I. THE CHRISTIAN DUTY OF REPROVING SIN IN OTHERS.
1. Duty to God.
(1) Filial relation.
(2) Desire for Divine glory.
(3) Conformity to mind of God.Now from these three principles arises the duty of the Christian to reprove sin in his brother, for he may say, "I cannot sincerely love God if I do not aim to please Him; I cannot be a child of God and suffer sin in my brother; I cannot be conformed to the example of Christ without aiming to counteract sin; I cannot but aim to destroy all that is opposed to the mind and will of God, and that is contrary to His glory." Here are three principles, then, to guide us, better than any especial rule. If it be asked, Shall I do good? or, How shall I do it? or, Will it be prudent to do it now? or, May not others do it better than I? — to all these inquiries the Christian may present these three principles as an answer. The God I love is displeased by sin; He is insulted — He is dishonoured.
2. Duty to neighbour. Love him as self. No outward act of what is called "good fellowship," no degree of goodwill or social intercourse can possibly make up for neglect of the soul. Now the exhortation in the text comes enforced by our duty to our neighbour. For what is it which is most injurious to our brother? It is sin. And shall I suffer sin on him? I should grieve, if I were to see him on the brink of a precipice or surrounded with devouring flames; if I saw that in his bosom was concealed a venomous serpent, or that he was about to lift a cup of deadly poison to his lips! And how, then, shall I suffer sin upon my brother?
II. THE DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF DISCHARGING THIS DUTY.
1. There are a number of circumstantial difficulties, but these I shall not dwell upon here.
2. The chief difficulties are in the heart of the Christian himself.
(1) The first which I shall mention, and that which will strike all, is the fear of man. This arises from —
(a) The weakness of religious principle;
(b) The strength of corruption.
(2) The love of approbation. That which is so unequivocally required by the Scriptures is too frequently disliked by the Christian, because he knows that it will bring on him a portion of contempt.
(3) The slight views we take of sin add to the difficulty. And what can prove our fallen state more than this? Oh, if we viewed sin aright, how active should we be!
(4) It is difficult, because to reprove sin requires peculiar qualifications. It requires great faithfulness. If you rebuke sin slightly, it will lead the sinner to suppose that you think slightly of it, and that may lead him to think slightly of it too. If you reprove without fidelity, you do no good. And yet joined with this must be much meekness. There must be that humble, retiring meekness which becomes a man; it is not God, it is not angels rebuking sin, but man — man rebuking, who needs to be rebuked — man who has sinned reproving man who has sinned. He who reproves, therefore, must do it with meekness, saying, "Who hath made me to differ?" There must be also authority. We must not speak slightingly, but as ambassadors of Heaven — as men speaking in the voice of God. But with this authority there must be humility; this must not be forgotten. There must be much zeal, and this zeal must be united with knowledge and judgment. Conclusion: The question may, perhaps, he asked,"Am I called upon to reprove sill at all times, and in reference to every man?" I think the principles I have laid down will furnish an answer to this question. Let us ask, Will it tend to advance the Divine glory and to promote the welfare of man? and we shall not then need any further inquiries. There may be cases — I can conceive of some such — when reproof should not be administered; there may be cases in which our neighbour should be drawn, and not driven. Yet the language of the text is positive: "Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." In answer to the question, Is sin to be reproved at all times? I would say unquestionably not. There are times when a look will do much more than a word; there are seasons when a marked silence will do unquestionably more good than any exhortation; there are cases, also, when lightness and levity so prevail as to counteract the effect of any kind of reproof.
(R. W. Sibthorp, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.