I think we’ve all experienced what it’s like to find a Christian brother or sister in sin. It’s not a fun position, in fact, many of us are unaware of what exactly to do. However, when we do decide to respond, we usually do it in one of three ways.
What Not To Do
The first response is to not respond. We ignore the sin by thinking “Well, we all make mistakes. Besides, the Bible says not to judge.” We then forget about it and move on – sometimes growing to justify this person’s sin in our mind.
The second response is to selfishly dwell on it. We think “I can’t believe they did/do that. I would never do such a thing. How can’t they see that this is sinful?” We critically judge them in our mind and heart, dwelling on their sin and watering a seed of bitterness against them. And yet, we still say nothing.
The third response is to respond unlovingly. It’s to call them out in anger and self-righteousness. It’s unloving because you’re calling them out to make you feel better, not to restore them to spiritual health.
These three responses don’t serve the friend in sin, yourself, or the advance of the gospel.
Restoring Friends in Sin
In Galatians 6:1 Paul writes,
“Brothers [and sisters], if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
What To Do
From this verse, Paul gives us 4 truths and actions to apply when we’ve come across a Christian brother or sister in sin:
Any-one in Any Transgression
Paul wants to be clear that no distinction be made depending on age. Jeremiah and Timothy are both great examples of younger Christians leading older Christians (Jeremiah 1:17; 1 Timothy 4:12).
Not only does Paul discourage age to hinder restoration, but also sins. It doesn’t matter the sin (anger, gossip, stealing, pride, etc.), we are to restore anyone in any sin.
You Who Are Spiritual
This is not some “elite” Christian standing. In the latter part of Galatians 5, Paul gets into what it looks like to walk and live by the Spirit. In fact, the two sentences immediately preceding our text say, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” A great way to know if you’re in the right place to restore someone from sin is to look at your heart and ask, “Are you living by the Spirit?”
Restore in a Spirit of Gentleness
We have to realize that restoration is a lot different than simply “calling someone out.” If we were playing hockey together and you kept going offside, I can either say, “Hey, you’re messing up!” or I could say, “Hey, you went offside. Can I help you? I’ve struggled with this before.”
You could say that restoration has three components: 1) helping identify the root cause of deterioration (the sin), 2) helping remove unnecessary materials hindering growth, and 3) helping growth with consistent checking up.
This restoration must be done in gentleness. The moment you sense a spirit of pride, self-righteousness, anger, or frustration, then you must go to God and ask Him for help.
Not all of us are called to restore Christian brothers or sisters in every type of sin. For example, one of the more popular forms of restoration from pornography addiction is to set up accountability partners who receive email updates if their Christian friend has done well or not. If you, as the accountability partner, also struggle with this sin, then you’re probably not the best accountability person!
The point here is to go into restoration prayerfully and carefully.
To sum it up, God desires His church to be open and honest with each other – always reflecting Christ in their relationships with one another. We see too many Christian brothers and sisters falling into sin because many of us are ignorant of the sin, or respond in one of the three ways mentioned at the beginning.
Let us not forget Paul’s word in Galatians 6:1 regarding restoring friends in sin. For we know they aren’t merely Paul’s words, but the very words of God Himself.