Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (CSB).
In our last post we saw that we need to be gentle restorers of believers that have been overtaken in any wrongdoing. Second, we need to be cautious restorers (6:1b)
The cautious restorer realizes that vigilance over one’s own soul is a crucial part of helping someone else. This is important for at least two reasons. First in seeking to help someone up, we watch out that we do not fall. When we seek to restore someone, we will come into contact with their sin to some extent. Sin spreads. Evil seeks ways to corrupt others, perhaps by taking advantage of a casual or overconfident attitude. We all should learn from the lifeguard’s method of rescuing a drowning swimmer. Keep your heart a safe distance from exposure. In this Covid-19 era, we can illustrate by saying, “Use the mask of the shield of faith.” Keep your spiritual armor on. Second in seeking to help someone, be careful that you do not complicate their problem. Physicians of old time who did not know about bacteria would treat wounds with unclean hands. If you try to treat someone else’s heart with spiritually unclean hands, you could introduce another serious infection into the person you’re attempting to help. For example, if you lack joy in the Lord, you might inject a gloomy outlook or cold discipline into them as a supposed new normal.
The cautious restorer considers the danger of temptation. Immature believers have poor spiritual vision. They see the evil of sin but fail to perceive the dangers of events that lead to sin. They suppose restoration is an easy matter, grow careless in spiritual duties like private prayer and self-examination, and are suddenly entangled in the sin themselves. The mature believer clearly sees where temptation can lead, and so they strive to avoid it (Matthew 26:41). As medical people in our day face great danger from disease in helping the sick, so spiritual restorers face all the evils of contamination from the new paganism of our day.
Third, we need to be burdened restorers. (6:2) Restoration is a difficult work. It is not a job for those who confuse Christianity with a life of ease and pleasure, which is free from pain and suffering. Satan’s great lie to the church has been that salvation is a vacation from service to God and others.
The burdened restorer accepts the burdens that must come on them when they help someone. Frankly, the task can be wearisome, because you find that when you lift the load off your brother or sister’s back, you must carry it on your own. It will cost you time and pain. Some of these burdens, besides being heavy, are also distasteful. Think of a nurse who must change dressings on wounds. It is ugly when you discover that the person whom you have been serving in love has fallen into the sin again and their situation has moved from being complicated to complex. Note very well: We do not overlook the burdens of the fallen, but we try to unburden them, so that they can stand again.
The burdened restorer finds that in doing this, he or she fulfills the law or instruction of Christ. They imitate Christ and discover that Christ’s ideas, attitudes, words, and actions have been learned by them in a new way. They make progress and learn more of the Lord’s joy in serving others. They see his peace “flowing through their fingertips” as their burden lifting touch brings restoration. Through faith they learn obedience to the Lord.
Christ’s law or “binding instruction” emphasizes love for one another. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34 NIV). My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you (John 15:12 NIV). This verse “shows that to love one another as Christ loved us may lead us not to some heroic, spectacular deed of self-sacrifice, but to the much more mundane and unspectacular ministry of burden-bearing” (Stott).
It is time for the church to stop wishing things were better and to begin to follow God’s plan for change. This means we must be gentle, cautious, burdened restorers of our fallen brothers and sisters. We must help them recover the strength to stand by faith in Christ, to walk again, and then to become those who can help others.
Grace and peace,