Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
The sin with which I had been struggling was nothing new for me. It had reared its head a number of times since my justification; it was like a viper I just could not shake from my arm. I remember the day that this secret struggle came to the surface before one of my brothers. He was the closest of my Christian friends, but I still expected some judgment or disappointment at this revelation. What I received from him was only compassion. I remember him pointing his eyes to the ground and telling me how sorry he was that I had to endure that struggle, but I was the one who felt I should be apologizing. In an instant, the compassion he felt for me I was able to feel for myself, and the shame that had hidden my struggle lost its hold on me.
Gentle restoration can be a difficult concept to understand and an even more difficult habit to put in practice. Sin is a very serious thing, and we are charged with taking a strong stand against it. However, we must be able to distinguish the sin from the one who commits it. When Jesus challenged the crowd and asked the one without sin to cast the first stone, He was placing them in the position of the sinner and asking them how they would like to be treated because of their sin. Imagining themselves in that woman’s place, because we know that each one of them belonged there, not one could cast that stone. She certainly expected to be stoned according to the law, but the crowd eventually dissipated, leaving her alone with the Lord. Her expectation of condemnation never coming to fruition, she experienced grace instead.
For me, gentle restoration means treating my brother unlike the way a condemned man expects. Instead of judgment, there is compassion. Instead of condemnation, there is forgiveness. Instead of humiliation, there is accepting love. Restoration is not about taking someone who has fallen and pushing him or her further down. It is about going down to where that person is and bringing him or her up to us. The power of sin is dependent on how our sin makes us view and feel about ourselves. We can break that power when we extend grace to the brethren and teach them to extend grace to themselves, to see themselves in the light of the Lord’s mercy. Father, bring us to a new place of gentleness as we restore our brothers and sisters through this precious gift of the Spirit.