I don’t know if it started with “America’s Funniest Videos” but if not, they sure accelerated the trend. We capture everyone’s mistakes on video and make sure that everyone in the world has an opportunity to see the stupid things they’re doing. If a tragedy happens, we whip out our phones and make sure to record all the details – forgetting that calling 9-1-1 might be a better use of our phones than recording the problem for all to see. Sometimes people see God as a judge who keeps a list of all the bad things we’ve done. If that were true, He wouldn’t need to worry about keeping a list anymore; all He would need to do is google our names at the last judgment.
Paul dealt with followers of Christ who had that kind of attitude. When someone sinned, they were ready to jump on it and condemn that person. It would be nice to say that Christians today have gone beyond that, but we haven’t. It’s a cliché, but a true one, that Christians seem to shoot their wounded. Maybe we condemn those caught in sin because we are grateful that we haven’t been caught in our own; maybe we do it because it will distract others from catching us in our sin. Whatever the reason, Paul told us the right way to deal with the person caught in sin. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)
The whole message of the gospel is restoration, not perfection. God seeks to restore relationships with people who have strayed away from Him. Perfect is used in one of two ways in the gospel message: 1) It describes God; 2) It describes what we are not. Sometimes people will make a mistake around me that affects me. When they apologize, I try to remember that statement and as I forgive them I’ll say something like, “When I’m perfect, I’ll get really mad – until then, don’t worry about it.” My goal is not to be right; my goal is to build positive relationships. Even if I never see that person again I hope to establish an attitude of grace. The words of Paul have two important messages. The first is to bring restoration, not condemnation to the person caught in sin. The second is to avoid temptation yourself.
I think the biggest temptation in this type of situation is to have a feeling of superiority. “I’m better than you so I can help restore you. Listen to me and then you can get right with God.” In essence, that’s a form of condemnation. Any time we seek to help people establish a restored situation we need to remember that perfection describes what we are not. We are, instead, sinners saved by the grace of God. The other temptation is to wonder why that person found that sin so alluring. We think about it. We ponder it. After a while, it’s easy to fall into that temptation. We begin looking at the sin with the attitude that we would never do that and end up being caught in the same sin. Many prominent Christians have lost their ministry because they have fallen prey to the very sins that they preach against. How do we avoid that? We must approach the idea of restoring someone caught in sin with the understanding that we are sinners also. When we do that, our work towards restoration will be done with a lot more compassion and a lot more success.
Lord, I am a sinner saved by Your grace. When friends are caught in sin, give me the grace to point them back to You. Let me be Your heart in restoring them to a proper relationship with You. Let me not fall into temptation while I am doing that. Cover me with Your grace to protect me.