As a pastor I get to be with people at their best and at their worst. Because of this I am often put in the position of dealing with a person who has sinned. I know, big surprise, right? In a world full of sinners this is pretty much a daily occurrence for all of us. People come and confess their sin, or they get caught in it and can’t deny it, and then we are left with the choice of how we will deal with their sin.
My observation is that our first response when someone is caught in sin is too often condemnation. We want them to be confronted, we want them to face their sin, and we want them to receive some sort of consequence. Much of the time that comes in the form of us passing judgment on them, talking about how bad they are behind their back, chastising them publicly, or just cutting all ties with them because we can’t associate with someone like that. After all; they’ve sinned.
Is that really the right response for us? Under the direction of the Holy Spirit Paul gives us something different to do with them.
Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
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.
Here are some key thoughts:
Restore them – the picture is the same as a doctor mending a broken leg. The process may be painful, but the result is healing. Our role is not conviction or passing final judgment, our role is to facilitate restoration. When facing the sin of someone else we should always be seeking restoration – to God and to others involved.
James 5:19-20 ESV
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
You who are spiritual – This needs to be handled by the mature so that it is handled well. A spiritually mature person will remember that they are seeking restoration rather than giving out condemnation. A mature believer will remember to deal with their own sin first and will see their own sin as greater. Also, someone who is mature will remember to show grace because they have been shown grace.
In a spirit of gentleness – Nothing is accomplished by coming into this with guns blazing. Harsh words or tones will only cause the other person to put up their guard, but gentleness and humility can disarm. When have to approach this remembering that the primary offense that has been committed is against God, and we are as guilty as those we are trying to restore.
Proverbs 15:1 (ESV)
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Keep watch so you are not tempted – there is a danger here. That danger is pride. Keep watch over your attitude, keep watch over your motives. If we are not careful we can fall into the temptation of thinking that we are much holier than this poor soul whom we are helping. That is always a dangerous road that leads only to destruction. Keep watch, don’t let yourself go there.
When Jesus spoke of dealing with someone else’s sin in Matthew 18 he said that if he or she listens to you, you have won them. May that always be our final goal! We want to win them: back to God, back to the Body of Christ, back to ourselves. Let’s be courageous enough to face these situations, but gentle in our approach always acting in love and humility. Let’s seek to win them.