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Sermon - Leviticus 19:17
Rebuke Your Neighbor

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Rebuke Your Neighbor

 "You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall surely rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of him" (Leviticus 19:17 - NKJV)

The verse for today seems strange for God tells us through Moses, "You shall surely rebuke your neighbor" (NKJV), and those words are not what most would expect from the Lord.  The New International translation is closer to the Hebrew expression, which says: "Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt."  In other words, be open and honest about who you are and what you feel toward people.  Far too many have a smile on the outside but carry resentments within.  A hidden attitude such as that is actually what is called, “hypocrisy.”

Today’s Scripture verse could be used as a "club" to harm other people but it is certain that was never its intended use.  That conclusion is clear because the very next verse teaches us to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).  How can we be fully honest with another person, and yet "love" them, as we are commanded by God?

It is certain that to become completely open with others can bring suffering to them.  Paul, who committed his life and teaching to the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God, anticipated this, urging us to be "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).  He completely understood that walking up to another person and saying, "I don't like your looks," can be bad for them (and for you, too).

But when you feel personally wounded by someone, it is better to tell them of your hurt than to carry resentment against them.  That's our Scripture for today: "You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall surely rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of him" (Leviticus 19:17).

Jesus was asked by "one of the scribes" (Mark 12:28), "What is the foremost commandment of all?"  Jesus answered the man by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, stating you must honestly and completely "love the Lord your God," which is your greatest need in life.

"Examine yourself" as it says in 2 Corinthians 13:5. What do you find inside that is most important for you?  Is it your money, your marriage, children, job, savings, health?  What about your reputation?  Often, when we just don't LIKE somebody, it's not about them at all - it's about ourselves.  They might remind us of someone who hurt us in the past, and we don't like them by association.  Watch and learn - QUESTION your motives, and now let's look again, for Jesus was still answering the scribe's question.

The Lord continued, "and the second (commandment) like it is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself," a quote from Leviticus 19:18, the Scripture right after our verse for today.  If you don’t love those who did you wrong, you should honestly question yourself: What do my thoughts and attitudes say about - me?

Once again: How can you be honest and yet carry out the command of God to LOVE others, including and especially those who don't LIKE YOU?  Jesus made it even more hard for us by stating, "love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) which is often somewhere between difficult and impossible when you were badly treated by someone like your child, spouse, parent, sibling, a former friend, or some person in a position of trust who betrayed you.

It is important, when it is possible to do so, to somehow tell that person they have hurt you and yet do it in love.  Both of you need to understand what happened, even when we know that to grow not only as friends but also as people, some pain from those discussions will occur.

In “Streams in the Desert," we read, "The best things of life come out of wounding.  Wheat is crushed before it becomes bread.  Incense must be cast upon the fire before its odors are set free.  The ground must be broken with the sharp plough before it is ready to receive the seed.  It is the broken heart that pleases God.  The sweetest joys in life are the fruits of sorrow.  Human nature seems to need suffering to fit it for being a blessing to the world."

Wounds can produce growth or they can cause death.  A graft into a fruit tree is a major wound, but it also leads to the production of bountiful fruit by that tree.  Too great a wound or if the cutting is done improperly; the tree can actually die.  The good news for us all is that Jesus gave His life for you and for me.  His death and new life are to us like a good graft is to a tree.  When we love Him who died for us, He gives us His life and the bonus is that we are forgiven in the sight of God.  And if we love the Lord, which is His first command, we can learn to love others, for He will give us His love and bring it to pass.

"Speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) is risky.  We might be embarrassed, not only for the other person but note that all of their friends may reject us and our honesty.  But to "rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of him" (Leviticus 19:17) is a great way to grow from the point where you felt injured by them.  As Amy Carmichael said, “If I put my own good name before the other’s highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary’s love.”  Be honest with others and always do it in love. And carefully note once more that you must include the Lord in all of this, for true reconciliation is from the heart of God.

We must be honest with our Lord.  Jim Limpp said, “It’s hard to try to imagine a life lived for God that is based on dishonesty, but an amazing number of people try to pull it off.”  We have all tried to fool the Lord, even when we understand “He knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21).  God knows our resentments, but too often we try to “sneak one by Him.”  Every day is a good day to tell your heavenly Father – everything!

The statement "love your neighbor as yourself," in Leviticus 19:18, continues: “I am the Lord.”  We can only love others honestly and be open with them through the power and love of God.  Human love will fall short - we need God’s power to forgive (and love) our neighbor.

Father, all too often we “hate (someone) in (our) heart” (Leviticus 19:17) and just try to go on, as though life was the same.  Forgive and heal us, Lord.  Cleanse us from our sins.  Let us be truly Yours.  Show Your love, Your forgiveness in us and through us.  Thank You. In Jesus Name.  Amen.

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