Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Sinner, the Spiritual, and the Observer

Galatians 6 begins with a situation that many a Christian will face at one time or another:

"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression..."

This isn't a passage admonishing you how to behave if you are caught in sin, but rather, it gives us advice about what to do if a fellow believer is caught in sin and you find out about it. Isn't that just a practical way for a passage to begin? Because so many of us find ourselves in this situation. During "prayer" time, someone will share about "Carrie's sister"... or about "the argument between Michelle & her mom." We'll hear about a crumbling marriage, a church member's addiction to pornography, or a young mom's problem with anger toward her children.

It goes on to say:
"...you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness."

Charles Stanley says that this kind of spiritual person is not just someone who reads their Bible occasionally, or is merely a regular church attender. This kind of spiritual person is someone for whom Christ is the center of their lives, a person who walks in the Spirit, and is a person who will have wisdom as to how to help restore a fallen brother or sister. This person knows to address the situation gently, humbly, and kindly, offering compassion and love while working towards restoration.

Not many people will fit this description, which is why things go awry when a casual Christian tries to "help" a Christian friend by giving advice from the likes of Oprah, Dr. Phil, or Dr. Laura. A spiritual Christian will restore by offering encouragement from the Word of God. A spiritual Christian will approach a fallen brother or sister
gently-- offering kindness instead of judgment, and a hand and ear rather than back-biting. We should each begin to develop that kind of gentle spirit toward those caught in sin.

"Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."

The interesting thing about this sentence is that this is what we very seldom do. When we see a brother who has fallen prey to internet pornography, we shake our heads at both he and his wife, thinking he must be a louse and she must not be "taking care of business". When we see a parent whose teen or adult child wanders into rebellion, we may think, "ah, they must have made some major mistakes with
that one!" But the truth is that any one of us -male or female- is subject to the same sins we see in others.

That's why Paul admonishes us to keep watch. We're to look at those going through the struggles of sin and learn from their mistake. We're to take caution not to fall into the same pit ourselves.

You know that saying,
"there but by the grace of God go I"? We often hear it in terms of a beggar on the side of the road or a drug-addicted prostitute. And while it is good to recognize that we, too, without the grace of God, would be ravaged by addiction, need, and sin, we need to personalize it more. It is you or I that could one day have a husband who falls into the arms of another woman. It is you or I that could have a child walk away from the Lord and foolishly into the world. It is you or I that could fall into any kind of sin ourselves. That is what makes the grace of God so incredible! Truly, without the lavish grace of God, you and I wouldn't stand a chance.

Gracious Father, help us to begin to see the sin of our brothers and sisters in a new light. When we hear of fellow believers that have fallen into sin, let us look inward, checking ourselves, lest we too be tempted. Make us the kind of men and women that offer gentle kindness. Keep us from making judgments about others, but instead, help us to be gracious in our words, actions, and, even though they're hidden, our thoughts as well. Make us spiritual men and women who You can work through to touch people in their moment of need. Amen.


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