Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Galatians 6:1 Be gentle!

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 ESV)

The skill of gently restoring a brother or sister in the LORD is not frequently practiced. Either people hammer the sinner over the head with judgment, or they wimp out completely and act as if nothing is wrong, fearing the accusation of being judgmental. Paul exhorts the Galatians here to gently restore someone caught in sin, because the goal is repentance and restoration with God. Don’t ignore the sin, but don’t thump the brother over the head with your Bible! Restoration needs to be done with an attitude of humility, because we are all one step away from falling into temptation ourselves.

More than thirty years ago I heard the late Chuck Smith speak on this verse at Calvary Chapel. He talked of having a very close friend who was married to a beautiful woman, had four amazing children, and lived in a lovely home in Newport Beach. The man was a salesman for a large food distributor and made the rounds of several Orange County markets, including a small “mom and pop” grocery store in Santa Ana. Over the years of visiting this couple, he developed a strong friendship with the wife, who always had a cup of coffee for him. This friendship became something stronger, and eventually Chuck’s friend left his wife and children and moved in with this woman. The man’s wife called Chuck in tears and asked him to speak to her husband, who refused to listen to their pastor or anyone else.

So Chuck made the trip to this man’s new place - an apartment above a garage in Santa Ana. When the woman opened the door, Chuck said, “She was nothing to look at, and certainly did not compare to his wife.” He described the tiny, dingy apartment. He sat on the couch to talk with his friend, but was overcome by sorrow at what this man had done, how he had chosen to end up there, leaving behind all that he did. And Chuck began to cry. He remembered that he just sat there crying and could not bring himself to speak, so he finally just got up and left. That night the man’s wife called and asked Chuck what he had said to her husband, because he had returned home.

Apparently, this man did not need a stern lecture from a self-righteous pastor, he needed to see the authentic grieving done over his sin. He needed to see the heart of God, not the judgment of man. I have never forgotten this. Chuck did not ignore the sin, he grieved over it! He “gently restored” his friend.

What is our attitude when we see a brother or sister fallen? Do we join the group of those who pick up stones to throw? Do we spread the news to others - maybe in the form of a prayer request? “Please pray for Jenny! She is having an affair and is thinking of leaving Ben!” Or do we grieve with the heart of God and seek to gently restore?

Paul has made it clear in this letter how to admonish those who have fallen away. He has actually modeled restoration with this Galatian church. He has not minced words when it comes to pointing out the danger of legalism. He has spoken directly to the problem. But he has maintained an attitude of humility, and his hurt and great desire to restore them to the freedom they had in Christ is apparent throughout. May we, too, learn the art of restoration!  

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