It has been said that people in our world love Jesus but can’t stand the church. Several books have been dedicated to this recently, including such titles as, “I Love Jesus: I Hate the Church,” and “Damage Control: How to Stop Making Jesus Look Bad.” When people read about or hear about Jesus, they recognize something there that they find attractive and even beautiful. True, the deeper their understanding of Jesus goes, the more they should understand their need for repentance, but there is something beautiful about Jesus nonetheless. On the other hand, their interactions with Christians have turned them off to Church and commitment to Christ. They like what they see in Jesus, but they know too many Christians.
In all reality, we will never be perfect. The church is not a collection of jewels of perfection, it is a collection of people healing and growing in Christ. But we are too often guilty of eating our young and killing our wounded. Paul goes to great lengths at the end of Galatians to describe a different kind of life that is available to the believer. God’s kind of life at work in his people is more healing than it is wounding, it puts together more than it tears apart, it restores more than it destroys.
Paul begins this application of God’s life by describing someone in one of the most vulnerable positions possible.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (vs. 1)
What was once private has become public. What someone has tried hard to conceal has become known. In many ways, this person is now at the mercy of those who know their secret. Thus, Paul calls on the most mature among us. He wants those who are literally “spirit-led” to oversee the management of this brother or sister. And what he says next should come as a kind of thunder clap.
Our natural inclination when someone falls is to mock or shun. Whether to their face of behind it, we are accustomed to looking down on someone, or proclaiming that we are too smart for their too-obvious and atrocious error. We are more likely to gossip about them and build fictional scenarios of their past and evil path that led them to their exposure. We are even more likely to take our new-found position of moral power to control and manipulate. So the thunderous command from Paul is, Restore!
And we do so gently, even meekly. We are to keep diligent regarding our own potential failures and our own brokenness. If we think more of ourselves – if we consider ourselves above the fray or morally superior – we deceive ourselves. If we are not clear about our own frailty, we are lying to ourselves. If, however, I have an honest assessment of how much I need God’s constant forgiveness and grace, we will react in a Christ-like way when a brother or sister is caught. Instead of derision we will react in humility before God and grace toward the fallen.
What do you see when you see a broken soul—any broken soul? What do you see when you see a brother or sister in Christ caught in sin? What do you see when you watch the world tumble along caught in its own sin? Do you see junk? Do you see a wasteland of useless humanity? Do you see a member of your congregation that needs to go?
To be sure, restoration requires that the restored recognize their sin and need for forgiveness. But my job is to give the grace God gave me. My job is to give the kind of forgiveness that requires God’s life at work within me. If you have the opportunity to reach out to a broken and fallen human, restore!