Q: Would you please explain Leviticus 19:17?


A: Leviticus 19:17 states, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” Other translations render this, “…so that you do not share in his guilt,” or, “participate in his sin.”

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, ed. 1961, make the following insightful comments regarding this passage:

“Instead of cherishing latent feelings of malice or meditating purposes of revenge against a person who has committed an insult or injury against them, God’s people were taught to remonstrate with the offender and endeavor, by calm and kindly reason, to bring him to a sense of his fault.”

A similar admonition can be found in Jude 20-21: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.”

When we perceive that a brother or a sister may be going astray, we might be in a position to help them. We should normally not do so, however, in front of others, but rather, we should speak to them alone (compare Matthew 18:15). At the same time, we ourselves must be “spiritual,” that is, we ourselves must be very close to God, before we can and should offer advice. Notice Galatians 6:1-2:

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

If we “rebuke,” or better, “reason” with a brother or a sister regarding a perceived sin or a trespass, and we are guilty of the same (compare Romans 2:21-23), or of worse things (compare Matthew 7:1-5), our advice will be of no value to our brother or sister. We need to first consider our own spiritual condition very carefully, before we proceed, with humility and gentleness, to give others advice as to how to overcome their sins.

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