by Julie Parton, Ph.D.
Like natural earthquakes, moral earthquakes don't just happen! They too, are preceded by secret faults, little cracks in character below the surface that eventually erupt into moral earthquakes. When one of these dramatic schisms occurs in the life of someone we know, or work with, or go to church with, how do we respond?
Of all the groups of people on the face of the earth, Christ-followers have the greatest opportunity to be about the ministry of restoration. We, better than anyone else, understand the pervasiveness of sin ("ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23) and the availability of forgiveness ("If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9). We also understand that there are consequences to be dealt with, and very often folks need help in dealing with those. And besides, who among us hasn't at some point needed a new beginning, a second chance?
Paul gives us three steps to follow to go about all this.
Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. Carry one another's burdens. Galatians 6:1-2
- We are to hunt them up! (vs 1) Did you notice that it is the mature response ("one who is spiritual") who knows better than to just write them off? Too often we wait for the fallen one to come back to us! But Scripture says we are to be the initiators. We must seek them out.
Get past the false notion that the one who has fallen will initiate the restoration. Usually they harbor a sense of guilt and shame which continues to drive them farther and farther away from hope and help. It is our task to hunt them up, just as Jesus came to seek and to save each of us. Think of post-abortive women you've talked to, or even the "regular" client in an unexpected pregnancy.
- We are to help them up! (vs 1b) It says in a spirit of gentleness, not rebuke or condemnation. The Greek word used here is the same as in Mark 4:21 where they are "mending" nets. Also used in 1 Corinthians 1:10 speaking of bones that are "perfectly joined together," it's a medical term with the idea of putting a broken bone back in place so that it can be mended. The orthopedic surgeon does not heal. He simply puts the broken bones in place, sometimes with pins. Then GOD does the healing, over a period of time.
This is a perfect parallel to the church's job with those we're discussing. WE cannot heal broken homes, hearts, or lives. But we can hunt them up and help them up by helping them put things together so God can heal their hearts and restore them to usefulness (just like the physical healing of a broken bone).
- We are to hold them up! (vs 2) Paul calls it "bearing one another's burdens." Some burdens are just too heavy to carry alone. That's why Scripture teaches us about the family of God and how we need each other. The world is made up of folks who are hurting and broken. We, the Christ-followers, are the ones called upon to take the initiative in restoring them to wholeness: hunt them up, help them up, and then hold them up until they have found a new beginning.
Take heart! It's never too late.