|Series Theme: Meditations in Galatians|
Meditation No. 30
Meditation Title: Restoring the Sinner
Gal 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
I don't know about you, but I'm often not very good at thinking through the flow of Scripture. I just read what it there paragraph by paragraph and often don't think about the flow of thoughts. For instance, why does Paul start talking about restoring sinners? What link does this have with anything that has gone before? How did his train of thought jump here, or is there a logical flow?
Well if we are catch a flow of thought or connection, then we have to remind ourselves what has gone before. Remember, the back part of chapter 5 was all about the contrasts of the old sinful life and the new Spirit-led life, and Paul had concluded with the exhortation, “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (5:26) There is within his thinking this recognition that we do get it wrong and do revert back to the old sinful nature sometimes and therefore there is a very real need to face the issue of getting it wrong.
Those blind individuals who maintain that we are now totally perfect, fail to distinguish between how God sees us as far as our place in eternity is concerned, and the practical reality of our lives being slowly transformed from those who are godless and unrighteous, to those who are godly and righteous. Yes, when we came to Christ, we surrendered all to the best of our ability, but we still had ways of thinking to be changed which will take a long time. An example of this is about taking everything to the Lord, especially when a crisis occurs, whether it be a headache, a family breakup or a false accusation. Yes, changing patterns of behaviour take a while and while we are being changed we are prone to get it wrong. The apostle John also recognised this when he wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 Jn 2:1) i.e. he didn't expect sin to be a part of their life any more but he did recognise that they were still human and so this side of heaven we would blow it and we would need Jesus to speak up for us.
So here we find Paul aware that even Christians get it wrong and even we still need help in sorting it out. We are part of a big family and the idea is not that we just let people fall but that we reach out to them when they fall and we seek to restore them. That is Paul's clear desire, not to write people off but to seek to restore them, but look at who and how. The restorer is someone who is spiritual, someone who is at peace, in a right relationship with the Lord and who should thus catch the Lord's heart and desire, to restore this one who has fallen. How should they go about restoring the fallen person? With strong authority, boldly demanding repentance? No, gently! If you need to be reminded of it, go back to the fruit of the Spirit and note again the links between the fruit there, and particularly the one about gentleness. But Paul gives us a reason for doing it gently: because you too are vulnerable! Of course when we are feeling strong in Christ the temptation is to think, “Oh, I'd never do that, I'd never let the Lord down!” If we do that we're in good company – just look up Peter's response to Jesus! (Mt 26;33-35)
See how Paul continues, “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (6:2). To be able to restore and pick up the fallen sinner, we may need to carry their burdens. What does that mean? It means that when they are in difficult circumstances which provoked them to succumb to temptation, we may need to feel as they feel and come alongside them in their circumstances and help bring change to them. We may need to carry or understand the burden of guilt and failure that they feel, so that we bring them and it to the Lord. Very often people who feel a failure don't want it exposed and so they hide away. You may have to go looking for them, showing your loving acceptance of them, even in their place of failure. You may need to show understanding and compassion before they are able to face up to the failure and take responsibility for it. The law of Christ is loving one another as he loved us (Jn 13:34).
To drive home some of the points of the first two verses in this chapter, Paul adds the following: “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.” (6:3-5) i.e. don't kid yourself! If you think you are great and you are strong and you look down on those who have fallen, don't kid yourself; you are only what you are by the grace of God, not by your own abilities. Check yourself out and you'll know the truth of this. Take pride in yourself? Paul is using humour. When you check yourself out (which may need to be done over a long period of time), you'll realise the truth of what we've said and you'll realise that any pride you have is only in Christ; it is only his grace, and you'll know that you need to pay attention to your own vulnerable walk in Christ and not compare yourself with others. Thus in this matter of righteousness and restoring one another, it is a case of one vulnerable redeemed sinner helping another vulnerable redeemed sinner. If you can't see this, beware! You are more vulnerable than you think!