What does the word “rebuke” mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to rebuke means to “express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.” Parents are charged to rebuke their children when they do something wrong; i.e., to correct a bad action before it becomes a pattern of bad behavior. Leaders are also charged with rebuking their followers. Church members, friends, family, and those in Christ are charged with rebuking one another to keep each of us on the straight and narrow path that God has established for following Him.

In 1 Samuel 3:11-14, God speaks to Samuel for the first time. He tells Samuel that he will be judging Eli and his sons, because Eli failed to “rebuke” his sons for their bad behavior.

God has directed us through His Word that we are to keep His Commandments, to follow His Ways, and to stay faithful in our relationship with Him. Part of that faithfulness is to ensure that we fulfill our leadership roles at home, at work, at church, and in whatever other activity or place we participate in. We are to set guidelines consistent with God’s expectations and commandments and when someone fails to keep up to those standards, then we are to take action to correct, to guide, and yes even rebuke the person breaking the rules.

Throughout the Bible you can read stories of how a member of one family brings sin into the family and through their silence or complicity they become party to the sin (or the cover up) and reaped the punishment. The story of Eli being punished for failing to discipline and correct his sons, even when God had directed Eli’s attention to the task, is one example. (1 Samuel 2:27-32). Another is in the book of Joshua, describing Achan, who failed to head the ban on taking anything from the city of Jericho (see Joshua 6–7 ).

God illustrates in these two particular stories that the family of the sinners are accountable for interceding to correct/rebuke/punish those whom they know are engaged actively in sinning. When we do not act to curtail the sin, then we become tainted by the ripples that flow out from the original sinful acts. When we condone sin through failing to seek to stop it, when we ignore it and say nothing, we are accountable for sins of omission as well as commission. The lie of the cover up compounds the original sin. Ignoring our leadership role makes us an accessory after the fact and guilty of failing to up hold God’s laws. We are not “innocent bystanders” when we know about sin and do nothing to influence the sinner to repentant and turn away from the behavior that is condemning them.

Study the stories of Achan and Eli. Delve into the Word of God and understand that through condoning sin we can become complicit in its commission by failing to act.


Author:  Lea A. Strickland, MBA CMA CFM CBM GMC
Copyright ©2012 Lea A. Strickland
All Rights Reserved

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