Restoration is always possible

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 (NIV)

Read: Galatians 6:1-10

Consider: Paul makes a very significant point in his letter to the Galatians, when he speaks of restoring anyone caught by sin (Galatians 6:1).  Paul knows that sin alienates people from God and fellowship with each other.  Therefore, his motive is to restore that person, so that they are brought back into fellowship with God and other believers.  The word translated as ‘restore’ in the NIV, carries with it inferences of ‘mending’, ‘making perfect’, ‘repairing’ and ‘strengthening’ an individual weakened by sin.

In these situations it may be tempting to be judgemental, assuming that you would never have fallen in this way.  However, Paul’s use of words indicates that the person who has been ‘caught’ by sin could:

  1. be trapped by a sin that they haven’t escaped from and repented of, when they put their trust in Christ;
  2. have been caught by sin, in that they gave in to a weakness and subsequently have not tried to resist the devil when they are tempted;
  3. have fallen into sin without realising until it is too late.   This could be something that on the surface appears to be quite innocent, yet over time pulls the person away from God.  The things of this world – money, fame, possessions, physical pleasures, etc. all have the potential to harm our walk with God; 
  4. be deliberately living in a way that contravenes what it says in the Bible (e.g. pre-marital sex and homosexuality).

Notice that the method of confronting a person caught by sin is to be one of gentleness and not in any way to be confrontational or judgemental.  This encapsulates what is often said in churches – ‘Speaking the truth in love’.  Our motives for dealing with sin in the church, is to lead a person back to a position where they are an active part of the Body of Christ, the Church.

Paul also gives a warning when he says: But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted (6:1).  We all need to be realistic about our own weaknesses and propensity to sin.  Having a correct view of ourselves should stop us being judgemental of others.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus himself gave us instructions on how to deal with sin in the church (Matthew 18:15-17).  Jesus tells us to speak with the person alone to see if they will listen.  If not, then it needs to be dealt with by a small group of believers meeting with the person.  Only then, when they will not listen, is it to be brought to the attention of the wider church.  If all attempts at restoration fail, only then is the person to be regarded as outside of the church fellowship.  Of course, no-one is beyond restoration and all can be welcomed back into fellowship should they subsequently repent and seek God’s forgiveness.

When seeking to restore someone who has fallen into sin, we need to be prayerful at each stage of our interaction with them; praying that God will open their mind and heart to acknowledge their sin and seek forgiveness from God.  We also need to pray that we will be protected from being tempted ourselves, that could so easily result in us sinning.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

Pray: Father, we pray for anyone who is caught in sin, either deliberately or as a result of circumstances.  Open their heart and mind to the truth, allowing them to repent and seek your forgiveness.  May those who seek to restore someone, not be prone to being judgemental, but may they always display gentleness in their interactions with others.  Amen

Every blessing

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