Updated: Aug 29, 2022
“Brethren, if any man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)
How often do we forget those words when we see a brother or sister clearly struggling with sin? This says “overtaken”, which can mean “caught up with and passed”. It can also mean “overwhelmed and caught off guard by a fault”, or “a moral weakness that hasn’t yet become a vice”.
When we see this struggle, we run to Matthew 18 for guidance on how to ‘handle’ the situation we observed, if we go to the Bible at all. We try to decide if we should follow those guidelines by asking someone else what they think! It becomes a comedy of errors. Matthew 18 says we are to go to the person who is struggling with sin ALONE, trying to gain our sibling. If they do not hear one person, Matthew 18 says involve two more people who are SPIRITUAL, not two lookie-loos and/or gossipers.
Unfortunately, we who are not spiritual want to reprimand; we want punishment. At times, we even want excommunication—IMMEDIATELY! God forbid someone we love has been wounded by the fault of someone else we are supposed to love as much! We take sides. Someone must pay—to suffer a while. Is that God’s way? No. But it is what the unspiritual want. We see it again and again in the Bible narrative, and God rarely leaves His struggling child in the hands of mankind for that reason. Humans want revenge! We even tell God the punishment we want Him to give!
Peter denied even knowing Christ. Still, God limited Peter’s suffering to the time Christ was in the tomb. On resurrection morning, the angel had the same message for the 10 and Peter: “he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him”. (Mark 16:7) The instruction was specific: “tell the disciples and Peter”. Why? God knew that the other disciples and Peter would think Jesus was through! Jesus knew his followers, and He knows us. By His example of restoration, we learn the ways of restoring others. Not only does Jesus restore Peter to his place in the remaining 11, He tells Peter his continuing assignment: When you are converted (completely changed, made over), this is the work I am giving you. If you love Me more than these, feed My sheep. Feed My lambs. Strengthen your brethren.
Even as Jesus saw the test Peter would fail, He saw Peter on the other side of it—changed. He saw Peter converted and functioning from a place of strength, a place from which he could encourage and uphold the brethren. So, we get the same instruction from God through Paul: Restore your sibling. Following cautionary words Paul says, You do the work of strengthening. “Those who think you stand secure, take heed lest you fall,” (1 Corinthians 10:12) Prayer: Father, help me remember that none of us are safe until we are safely home. Help me heed the words: “Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)