“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch over yourself, lest you too be tempted.”Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
While there have been some ‘high profile’ transgressions in recent times with the accompanying diagnosis and opinions about what went wrong and what should be done, and the serious effects on the persons involved and many others, the purpose of this article is to open up our thoughts on how we address and bring solution to such transgressing that may occur among ourselves and our churches.
Such transgressing will involve crossing certain boundaries. Two main areas that certain leaders have been caught in are financial irregularity and varying degrees of sexual impropriety. However, there are other boundaries that get crossed that are not always recognised or ‘called out’ in the same manner. We might think of examples of controlling or manipulative behaviour, exaggeration and lying about the ‘fruit of ministry’ or other false claims about healing or miracles.
Paul’s appeal in these verses to the Galatians is to restore these ones. He doesn’t say to condone or overlook, nor does he permit us to condemn and dismiss, but appeals for us to respond constructively and helpfully. The word for restore here is katartizo, the same root word used in Ephesians 4:12 for the equipping of God’s people. This key word has a wide range of meaning from the mending of nets (Mark 1:19) to the re-aligning of broken bones. It can also be translated variously as to prepare, to furnish, to make complete, and to make fit for purpose.
So, what might be some of the steps in this process?
- RECOGNITION: This may come about in one or more ways; for example, confession by one involved, secret action becoming known, or even by revelation through the Holy Spirit.
- REPENTANCE: Genuine sorrow for the action, not just sorry that one gets found out, followed by a turning in the thoughts and spirit of the mind, leading to truly changed behaviour.
- ROOT ISSUES: Usually behind a transgression of this nature there are some root issues in a person’s life. Failure to uncover and bring godly resolution to these issues may result in further transgressions down the road.
- RE-ALIGNING: Such transgressions generally display a breakdown of trust and thereby bring damage to relationships. The repentant one requiring restoration not only needs healing, but to be included once more in a loving community of faith and aligned to those who can bring both wisdom and a godly example for them to grow alongside.
- RELEASING: While the depths of some transgressions will leave a lasting, even life-long impact, there has to be a means of releasing someone from the past wrongs and releasing once again into a usefulness in the work of the Kingdom of God. This is not to be rushed or hasty, but well considered while always giving hope.
While these steps could provide a simple outline of recovery and restoring, it must be recognised that no two situations will be the same, and there needs to be room for the guidance and wisdom of the Spirit.
There is something else that is very important to bring up here, and that is prevention of such transgressing; a prevention that will save a great deal of pain and loss. We can develop a means of prevention through honest confrontation, which is always made easier through the continual development of healthy relationships. Within the context of such relationships, we are not afraid to challenge, to confront and to correct when necessary.
We must be open to and never dismissive of warnings and prophetic revelation from the Holy Spirit. We are a prophetic people and a function of the prophet is to warn. Such a warning, which may come, for example, through a dream, must be laid before the Lord for wisdom on what to do and when, and at the right moment presented with humility and gentleness.
There are some who need restoring not because they have transgressed but have tripped up, either by their own doing or that of others, circumstances and even the evil one. There are those who would throw away their calling and ministry due to great discouragement, biting criticism or a deep sense of failure. Such despair needs a gentle spirit that restores through encouragement, honest appraisal and affirmation, and help to equip and direct into God’s intention of much fruitfulness.
Who is to do this restoring and in what manner?
Paul tells the Galatians that those who are spiritual should do this in a spirit of gentleness while at the same time watching out for oneself, recognising that we could just as easily be tempted to transgress.
What does ‘spiritual’ mean here? Paul uses this term to describe those who are maturing, who feed on ‘solid food’ (I Corinthians 3:1-3) as opposed to those who only take ‘milk’ and who engage in jealousy and strife. They are those who recognise true revelation (I Corinthians 14:37), and those who appraise all things in line with the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:15-16).
And a spirit of gentleness? Paul asks elsewhere, “Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” (I Corinthians 4:21). It seems either may be valid and at times necessary, yet it is clearly more desirable and initially beneficial to come in the latter. We need to restore from the right spirit with the right motives, rather than from self-interest or self-protection.
Watch out! None of us are immune! Keep watch over yourselves. Enough said!
Rather than suddenly having to react when there is a transgression, especially a serious one by someone in leadership, we need to be presently creating a culture of walking in integrity of heart that seeks to prevent such transgressing of boundaries though godly values, honest relationships, necessary confrontation and prophetic warning. And if ‘anyone is caught in any transgression’ we need to be courageous and gracious enough to do our utmost to bring true restoration wherever possible.
One thought on “Restoring the Fallen”
Thank you so much, Steven – really helpful. It was all so good, but I was particularly impressed by you comments about prevention, especially through healthy relationships, being so much better than cure. I immediately thought of an email sent to me just last week-end but a pastor friend who sent me the following about the kind of relational accountability that went on within ‘Team Wesley’ …
“Wesley and his ‘Holy Club’ friends daily asked and responded to these 22 questions with which they also challenged themselves every day in their private devotions over 200 years ago. They are really challenging me too …
“1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
4. Can I be trusted?
5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
7. Did the Bible live in me today?
8. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
9. Am I enjoying prayer?
10. When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?
11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
13. Do I disobey God in anything?
14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
17. How do I spend my spare time?
18. Am I proud?
19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
22. Is Christ real to me?”