Moral Earthquakes and Secret Faults: Rescue efforts - Part 13

Two are better than one. If one falls down, his friend is there to pick him up. But pity the man that falls and has no one to help him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10

Galatians 6:1-2

If a person suffers a moral earthquake, if they crumble under the pressures of temptation, if their faults cause their downfall, what are we to do? Especially if this person is a Christian brother or sister, how are we to react? What is our role? Indeed, are we to do anything?

It is not a particularly comfortable subject for any of us to discuss, but we simply must talk about the subject of picking up the pieces of broken lives—the ministry of restoration. Certainly, it is not a subject the Bible avoids. For instance, the apostle Paul forthrightly asserts: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1–2).

This may well be one of the most important lessons of all in the realm of temptation for the church of Jesus Christ: What do we do when someone falls and falters? We, the members of the body of Christ, must restore that brother or sister.

Now what do you think would happen if a church began to be known as a place of true restoration? If it became a place where those who are down could get up, a place where those who are out could get back in, not a place of condemnation but of confirmation, a place of new beginnings? I will tell you what would happen: Men and women from all over—men and women with wounded hearts and hopes—would flock to such a church to find hope and to find healing. This is the church we find in the New Testament.

Sadly, many Christians are not active in the ministry of restoration. More sadly still, not many churches are involved in the ministry of restoration. In the Body of Christ we have a responsibility to one another. Paul tells us that the responsibility we have to one another is threefold. We should hunt him up, help him up, and hold him up.

Hunting, helping and holding

“Brethren, if any man is overcome in a trespass, you who are spiritual hunt him up.” Go to him, restore him, take the initiative. Most of us wait for our wounded, fallen friends to come crawling back, saying, “I’m sorry.” But so often, the guilt and the shame that comes in being overcome by temptation prevent one from doing that very thing. In fact, a lot of people are not in church today simply because they’re afraid of rejection. They’ve been overtaken in a trespass, and the fear is that if they should come back to church, they would be rejected!

The ministry of restoration, to the believer, involves hunting him up—seeking him out. We have to go to him; he won’t come to us.

Secondly, we are to help him up. Paul says, “Restore him.” Our responsibility does not end in seeking out our fallen friends, but in restoring them. And then that’s not enough. We’re not to stop there. We are to hold them up. Paul admonishes us, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” And the law of Christ is the law of love.

Now what do we do when we find a fallen friend? When dealing with temptation, it’s not enough just to talk about everything that precedes the fall, yet sometimes that’s what we do in the church of Jesus Christ. We’re good about how to overcome temptation, how to spot it, how to stop it, but what do we do when someone falls? We are to hunt them up. By and large, in our generation, we have not been very good at this.

We’re better at writing him off and then saying to one another, “I told you so.” We like to wait for that fallen one to come back to us, but the Scripture is explicit. It says that our position is to hunt him up, to be the initiator, and to go to him. Don’t wait for him to hunt you up for help. It’s not going to happen. Many of us with good intentions have seen a friend, overtaken in a trespass, in a sin, and have just been waiting for them to come back, just been waiting for them to repent, to be restored, to come back—perhaps crawling—to us. It’s not going to happen.

Why? Many will not return because of guilt—the shame that sin brings; for others, it is the fear of rejection. We are to take the initiative.

Now the issue: this is a family matter. This isn’t talking about going to the lost. Paul issues this admonition to the brethren. The Greek word literally means “of the same womb.” Paul is directing us to take proactive measures to protect our fellow family of faith members, those who may have succumbed to temptation and to sin.

When are we to engage in this ministry of restoration? Paul says, “If a man is overtaken in any trespass.” That word “overtaken” is very interesting in the Greek. It literally means “caught in the act.” It conveys a certain element of surprise. If a man is overtaken—to his surprise—in a trespass, then we are to restore him.

So here is a person who is caught, and he falls. Those little secret faults have been running through his life. He didn’t think there was anything to them; he thought he was all right; he thought he’d get away with it. Now, all of a sudden, a moral earthquake has struck.

Paul says, if a brother has been overtaken in a trespass in this way, then there is something for us to do. We are to hunt him up and seek to restore him. He could get hurt if he stays out there, outside the boundary lines of God’s Word. All of us are susceptible to being overcome by trespasses, even the great men of faith in the Bible: Moses, Elijah, and David.

One day, David stepped over the line, trespassed outside the boundary lines of the Word of God. Yet he was fortunate enough to have a friend named Nathan who hunted him up, helped him up, held him up, confronted him in a spirit of gentleness, and said, “You’re that man.” We read Psalm 51 and see the repentant heart of David, how that friend of his helped him and held him up.

Paul wrote the Galatian epistle at the end of his first missionary journey. Remember what happened on that first missionary journey? There was a young man by the name of John Mark. He accompanied Paul and Barnabas and then went AWOL. He quit. He gave up. He left them in the lurch, and went back home.

How was John Mark restored? Barnabas was his friend, and what did Barnabas do? He hunted John Mark up. Being a spiritual man, he hunted Mark up and helped him up; he restored him. Then he held him up, he stood by him, and he encouraged him. John Mark went on to leave us that Gospel that bears his name—the Gospel of Mark.

Why? Because Mark had a friend who—when he got outside the boundary lines and was overtaken in a trespass—sought him out and restored him. Barnabas didn’t wait for John Mark to come crawling back, saying, “I’m sorry.” He went out and, in a spirit of gentleness, hunted him up, helped him up, held him up, and God gave him another opportunity.

The spiritual

Not everyone in the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be involved in the ministry of restoration. Paul says the initiator in this ministry of restoration must be uniquely qualified: “You who are spiritual.” The reason is simple: carnal people, those who are not spiritual, will do more damage than they will help.

The call is issued to “you who are spiritual,” not you who are holier-than-thou. This is not open season for church people to think it’s their God-given call to go out to everybody overtaken in a trespass and confront them, seeking to be part of the ministry of restoration. It is only for those who are spiritual, not self-righteous, not holier-than-thou.

This Greek word for “spiritual” here literally means “one who is filled with and governed by the Holy Spirit.” The call to restoration is not to be heeded by everyone. Only those who are spiritual need apply for this job.

Earlier in his Galatian letter, Paul defined just who “the spiritual” were. They were those whose lives genuinely evidence the fruit of the Spirit. He says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one” (Gal. 5:22–6:1).

The one who is spiritual reacts with genuine concern and genuine remorse. He is aware that if this is a true brother who is wounded, he’s wounded too. They’re members of the same family. They are parts of the same body, and if a part of his body is hurting, he’s hurting too. Those who are spiritual realize that. The church must get past the false assumption that the one who has fallen is the one who needs to be the initiator of restoration.

Taking the next step

Pursuit—even loving pursuit—of our fallen brother is not enough. We must take the process of restoration to the next step. What are we to do? We’re to hunt him up, yes, but we’re also to help him up.

The word for “restore” literally means “to mend something that is broken or that is torn.” It is used in the Gospels to describe nets that were in need of repair. It is also used to describe a broken bone, one in need of mending. The word-picture portrays the idea of putting a bone back in place so that it mends and is useful again, or fixing rends in a net so that it can be used to fish again.

In the ministry of reconciliation and restoration, God uses us to mend that which is torn and to heal that which is broken. He wants to use us, those of us who are spiritual. He wants to use us as His orthopedic physicians to set the broken bones of our time in place so that He can do His own work of healing. He wants to use us to do that, those of us whose lives are characterized by love, joy, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. God wants us to be His fixer-uppers.

Here is a man, and the secret faults in his life have erupted into a moral earthquake. Instead of talking about him or lamenting the fact that it’s done, we are to go to him, restore him, help him to set those things in place in a spirit of gentleness, so that God can bring hope and healing. The sad commentary with a lot of believers today is that instead of going to a broken brother, they go to others and talk about him.

I spy

Some like to criticize, some like to condemn, some like to castigate, others like to critique, and some like to cancel—just forget the offending parties. Some say, “It’s none of my business. He made his bed, let him lie in it!” But the Bible says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a trespass, you who are spiritual, put that bone in place, mend that torn net.”

George W. Truett once said, “I think nothing of that system of espionage which is forever spying out people to catch up with their weaknesses and their faults.”

Some churches are into spy activities. There is no place in the church of Jesus Christ for brothers and sisters lying in wait, spying on one another in a spirit of espionage to bring down instead of to build up, to tear down instead of holding up. Our business is to restore. Too many times the very place that God has ordained to be the center of restoration—the church of Jesus Christ—has become the center of condemnation. That’s why so many churches are empty today. Instead of being the very center of the place of restoration where wounded broken lives can come, be set together, and become whole, they become places of condemnation.

God uses us as agents of restoration. What are we to do? We’re to hunt them up, and we’re to help them up.

Imagine going out during the noon hour in a metropolitan area when the streets are filled with people—pedestrians walking everywhere—and seeing a lady step off of a curb. She trips and breaks her arm. Lying there in the street, she is writhing in pain.

One person walks by and says to his friend, “Look at her lying there. She’s broken her arm.” Another sees her lying there in pain and simply criticizes her, “You’re in the way of pedestrian traffic. We’re trying to get by here, and we have to step over you. Can’t you move?” Someone else stops, but only to counsel the woman. “You know, if you had watched where you were going you wouldn’t have tripped over that curb.” Now she really needs to hear that, doesn’t she? Someone else looks on from a distance and condemns the poor woman. “That’s stupid. That is so stupid. She shouldn’t have done that.”

Sound ridiculous? Certainly it does! And yet, that is precisely how we act when we find that a brother or a sister has been caught in a trespass.

Just because that lady has broken her arm does not mean it must be amputated. It can be mended. It can be put back in place. It can be restored, and it can become useful again.

Why is the church of Jesus Christ hobbling through this world, limping and struggling along in many places? Because there are a lot of broken bones in the body of Christ that have never been properly set. The thrust of the word restore is in getting the wrongdoer back to where he should be. It is in getting the bones back in place so that they can be mended and become useful again. It is in getting the nets mended so they can be useful again. It is in getting fallen Christians restored to usefulness, just as strong as ever.

I wonder how many broken bones there are in the body of Christ today? How many wounded lives are there? If a broken bone is not set properly, it may never heal the way it should, and the longer it waits to get set, the longer it gets set in its own way—deformed. If the believer is not restored, the strength of the church is weakened.

We are members of the same family. We are soldiers in the same army. We are bones, as it were, in the same body. We are all a part of the same net, and when there is a tear in the net, it ceases to be effective. When a part of that net is ripped and torn, fish get out.

We need to realize our world is hurting and broken, and, “brethren, if a man is overtaken in a trespass, you who are spiritual restore [him] in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1–2).

Set those broken bones so they can walk again. Mend those torn nets so they can fish again. Restore those fallen lives so they can live again. That’s what we’re to do. We’re to hunt them up and help them up and hold them up. This vision of a place of restoration, with us acting as agents of restoration, should be the goal of our churches. Only through application of these principles can we hope to restore the aftereffects of a moral earthquake.

Moral soundings

  • Have you ever sought out the broken and fallen in your midst?
  • Have you ever followed the “hunt up, help up, and hold up” pattern?
  • Have you ever been pursued by a faithful friend who simply wouldn’t let go when you fell?
  • Have you ever been used by God to mend or heal or restore?
ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

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