“Say, ‘Uncle”‘

By Bill Robinson, Jr.

I remember as a kid that being “whipped” by the sandlot bully was humiliating. However, a bloody nose or a black eye or a fat lip could be rationalized among friends as a badge of courage. But let’s face it, there was no rationalizing the epitome of humiliation when the bully made you “say, ‘Uncle.”‘ There was something about that which hurt worse than any fat lip or black eye or bloody nose, or any combination thereof.

Unfortunately, some brethren are not satisfied when an erring brother demonstrates true repentance. They insist on making the penitent one “say, ‘Uncle,”‘ rather than rejoicing that his faith has not failed in bringing about “a change of will resulting in a reformation of life” (true repentance).

When Jesus foretold Peter’s denial, He admonished Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not,, and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren” (Lk. 22:31-32). We are familiar with the rest of the account regarding Peter’s penitent attitude which followed his denial of the Lord. There is nothing in the text which lends itself to the attitude of a bully. To the contrary, there is evidence of Jesus’ hope (desire with an expectation) for Peter’s “turning again” (repentance) based on his unfailing faith. Why do some expect more from an erring brother, in the matter of true repentance, than our Lord?

A truly penitent brother who has sinned has already been “whipped” and humiliated by his sin. Shall overzealous brethren play the part of a bully demanding more? If so, on what basis? We would do well to consider the warning, “Consider thyself also lest thou be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). We need to rejoice that a penitent brother’s faith has not failed. We need to rejoice that one has come home and that if I should err somewhere, sometime in the future, there is a brother, like me, who will make supplication that my faith fail not and will encourage me to turn again.

Now, there is another side to this point I am trying to make. Some brethren would like to be more pious than God by not demanding true repentance on the part of an erring brother. They would like to ignore sin and dismiss repentance altogether. Just let someone stand up against one who has sinned and demand repentance and you will hear the more pious-than-God cry, “You are trying to make him ‘say ‘Uncle’!” When the truth of the matter is that Jesus demanded true repentance of Peter. The teaching of Jesus is quite clear, “Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother sin, rebuke him, and if he repent, forgive him” (Lk. 17:3). Can there by any doubt about the fact we are to rebuke those who sin? Again, the Bible teaches, “. . . forgiving each other, even as God… forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). Can there be any doubt about the matter? We are to forgive even as God forgave us in Christ. God forgives us in Christ when we repent. Shall overzealous brethren feign piety above God attempting to forgive another without repentance?

Let us not play the bully demanding more of an individual than our Lord. Neither let us attempt to be more pious than God by forgiving without repentance. True repentance, which stems from an unfailing faith is enough. The cry of “say, ‘Uncle,” is too much from whatever side.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 9, p. 260
May 1, 1986