When a Brother/Sister Falls: A Spirit-Filled Life, Day 12
On Friday, we examined what Paul told us not to do. But let's face it. We all do what we shouldn't do on occasion. That's the whole purpose of the Spirit: to empower you and me to live holy before the Lord. The goal is to progress in our transformation, but what happens when we get caught up in a fault? It happens. The Apostle Paul provided instruction on this, as well.
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his load" (Gal. 6:1-5).
The connotation is that if anyone is caught in deviating from the truth, whether in word or action, before he can flee the scene or cover it up, as they are taken by surprise, those who are walking in the Spirit are to bring that one back to a position of wholeness, helping make complete what is fractured in their lives. Three things to note here:
1. Only those walking according to the Spirit are qualified to minister restoration. While we are all called to the ministry of reconciliation, there is no room for hypocrisy when dealing with people's lives. That's why Jesus told us that we must first remove the plank from our eye so that we could see clearly to remove the speck in our brother's eye (Matt. 7:5).
2. It is also a pre-requisite that gentleness is cultivated in our lives. I don't know how many times harshness has ruled the day when Christ's compassion and gentleness are what bring people to repentance. We have all been victims of this and more than likely been party to others' severity instead of kindness. If repentance is the highest honor of the Christian, which is a primary goal, then compassion is essential. When Paul told Timothy that all Scripture was good for correction, that word meant to put one back on their feet (2 Tim. 3:16). Too many times we have been guilty of stomping on people in their weakness when God calls us to lift them back up so they can continue their walk.
3. We're to consider ourselves, lest we be tempted. Humility is vital when bringing correction. Pride causes people to shirk from rather than embrace us. After all, while we may need to restore them because they've fallen from true doctrine, the point is that they are restored first and foremost to a relationship with Christ and His Body. Unfortunately, too many people have amputated needed members of the Body because they walked in an attitude of superiority. That pride goes before a fall is more than just a clever idiom; it's truth, and if you don't submit to God's way of doing things, He will humble you. I say this to my chagrin. Believe me, when I say I know.
Paul says that we are to bear one another's burdens. This doesn't mean bringing a meal when someone needs it, or helping them out during financial difficulties, although we should do so if possible. Instead, this phrase means supporting others by lifting them when they experience moral failures. We don't write them off, stop talking to them, or wallow in anger because they've embarrassed themselves and us. Rather, we eat the fruit of long-suffering and restore them. By doing so, we fulfill the law of Christ. But what is that? James 2:8 tells us that it is "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
It is dangerous to think that because you have a title in a church, you are qualified to beat up, disqualify, or otherwise cut off a member of the Body. Self-examination is a must. After all, a quality leader can say, as did Paul, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). The fruit of the Spirit should be flowing out of those who give correction so that it will bring nourishment to those who have fallen. Some would say that I have become too introspective. Maybe, but I don't think so. I want Christ to deal gently with me, so I want to learn to deal lovingly with His Body. To think we're above another is to walk in deception ourselves. Our rejoicing comes when we can examine and test ourselves and conclude that our motives and heart have become like Christ's.
Paul then reminds us that we all must bear the weight of our own load. This is not only for those we want to restore but for those acting as the conduit of restoration. The former bear the burden of the sin they are caught in until repentance, and the latter how we behave as ministers of reconciliation. We all have faults and regrets that the enemy uses to oppress us. That's why we must walk according to the Spirit. When we do so, we can rebuke the enemy and see him flee. The Spirit enables us to walk holy and upright before the Lord and to deal with fallen brothers and sisters His way - with His love and gentleness. Remembering who we are and how far we have progressed in our relationship with the Lord, and being thankful for the many times God has dealt gently with us in our sin, should provide the motivation we need to see others restored and walking in victory through the Spirit's power.