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The Dangers of Seeking to Restore

It is the responsibility of every Christian to seek to restore a fallen brother or sister; howoever, there are very real dangers involved in seeking to live out this reality in the covenant community. In Galatians 6:1, the apostle Paul writes, "If any man is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." In the most basic interpretation of the verse, he is raising a two-fold warning: (1) against being ensnared in sin, and (2) against self-righteously condemning a brother who is caught in sin. We must be humble, self-distrusting and gracious in our desire to see Christian brothers and sisters restored to Christ-honoring living. The greater of the two warnings in Gal. 6:1 is found in the latter part of the vcrse. William Still writes:

The danger is not only to the hapless stumbler, but to those who stand over him self-righteously. "Pride goes before a fall" because pride is sin, and sin of any kind leads to the slippery paths where the arms of God seem to be tied and the arms of Satan are long and wide and active. If a man living in the Spirit forgets himself for a moment and slips, those who are in the Spirit will assume first, not last, that it is a thoughtless and momentary lapse, will understand that to a spiritual person the shame and humiliation will be sufficient punishment, and will come to him not fussily but humbly and simply to pick him up and "put him together again" (this is the word used of mending fishermen's nets).

They will do this in the first instance because they love him and are sorry for him in his plight (they will certainly not laugh as irreverent people do at others' discomfiture), and they will do this the more eagerly as they say to themselves, "It might have been me! I am just as liable to be thoughtless and to be wisked away by Satan as my brother. If it had been me, this is what I would have liked someone to do to me."1

Derek Thomas makes several pastoral application when he notes:
  • Addressing particular sins in others can awaken something that has lain dormant within us for some time.
  • Recognizing that fellow Christians may sin in a particular way can lead us to excuse similar sins in our own lives, perhaps especially if the 'brother' in question is known as a 'mature' and 'godly' Christian. If so-and-so can do this, so can I!
  • The devil will seek to lessen the effectiveness of the restoration by ensuring that those engaging in the process of restoration are themselves guilty of similar transgressions.
  • We are at our weakest when addressing the sins of another. Self-righteousness and hypocrisy are close at hand in situations of this kind.
  • We find condemnation easier than restoration and forgiveness.2
1. Still, William Notes on Galatians (Aberdeen: Didasko Press, 1972) p.
2. Thomas, Derek  Let's Study Galatians (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004) p. 148

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