Lovingly Restoring the Fallen
However, she was also fairly attractive. The time he spent talking to her after church created suspicion. People weren’t necessarily “gossiping” about him but they were “concerned.” Some had seen him at her softball games and commented, “It just didn’t look right.”
Finally, I had heard enough. Galatians 6:1 reads: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”
Going to a brother
While I wasn’t sure I qualified as “spiritual,” I was his pastor, as well as his friend. Since no one else had approached him, I decided to do so. Since Matthew 18:15 instructs us to go by ourselves on the first visit to someone who may have a problem, I arranged to talk with him for a few minutes after an evening service.
As we began to talk, my mouth felt dry. I fought to keep my voice from trembling. I knew there was the possibility that he could get angry and storm out. Or remind me of my own failures. Still, I cleared my throat and said, “I think you need to know that there is some discussion circulating about the fact that you seem to be hanging around (her name) a lot. I’m concerned that it’s hurting your Christian testimony, and I thought as your friend you needed to be aware of it.”
His response was much better than I expected: “Oh my! I never thought that it could be seen that way. I am just concerned about the struggles she’s facing at home and felt she needed some encouragement. Goodness! I’ll sure back off. I’m sorry.”
Bearing another’s burden
From that point on, his relationship with that young woman cooled and the talk (gossip) subsided. That was 30 years ago. I’m happy to report that my friend and his wife are still happily married and enjoying their grandchildren. That college-age girl now has a godly family and a positive witness as well.
Looking back, I wonder what would have happened if I had said nothing? At the very least, he would have continued to damage his witness. Perhaps an unhealthy relationship was on the verge of developing and may have ended in a disastrous affair, a broken marriage and a devastated family. Of course, I don’t know that, but I wonder: What if?
I wonder how many times we could help to bear one another’s burdens of a temptation or poor judgment and we don’t do it. We may be afraid or erroneously conclude that it’s none of our business. As a result, good people stumble and fall, all while we cluck our tongues in disapproval.
The act of restoring
Christians shouldn’t be spying on one another or nitpicking every minor mistake. However, we should be perceptive enough and caring enough to confront someone if we see them possibly “caught in some sin.”
Two key phrases should guide any such confrontation: “restore gently” and “watch yourself.” There is no room for abrasive accusations or self-righteous attitudes when attempting to restore another person.
Not all confrontations end positively, as mine did. Yet numerous spiritual flame-outs could be averted if God’s people held each other accountable—and spoke the truth in love. Church leaders, it is worth reminding your congregation of this truth.
At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches & conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups. More from Bob Russell or visit Bob at http://www.bobrussell.org/