Lifting up the Fallen
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
In the Christian economy, the physical relationship is rejected as being of preeminent importance in favor of the spiritual relationship.
One day during His earthly ministry the family of Jesus stood outside a house. Someone told Jesus His mother and His brothers wanted to see Him. Jesus used the moment as a teaching opportunity and “said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? And who are my brethren?
And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt. 12:48-50). People put great stock in their ancestry. Will Rogers once spoke about people boasting about the 6 million 785 thousand people who came over on the Mayflower. “My people met the Mayflower,” he quipped.
The Jews were very proud of their ancestry. They had Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They had Moses and the prophets. The men had in their bodies the mark of a physical relationship to Israel. All that is well and good, but more important, is the spiritual relationship within the family of God. “Behold my mother and my brethren,” said Jesus. “They believe in me.”
The Lord knew that some of His own family members did not believe He was the Son of God. One day they would believe, after His resurrection.
Because Christians are part of the family of God, they must be tenderhearted, forgiving, and supportive, especially when someone is taken in a fault. The word for “fault” literally means, a “transgression”, or, “a misstep.” Christians are to help those who have a misstep in their journey in grace. To the question, “Are we our brother’s keeper?” the answer is, “Yes, we are our brother’s keeper.”
There is a lovely cartoon by Charles Schulz. Lucy asks Charlie Brown,
“Why are we here on the earth?”
Charlie Brown answers,
“We are here to make others happy.”
Then Lucy, thinking for a little while, adds,
“Well why then are the others here?”
“The others are here for the same reason we are here. We are to love one another.”
Love will be tested when someone has a misstep.
Sin can come and sweep over a person, much like a tidal wave can come and sweep people out to sea, leaving behind death, devastation, and destruction.
It is possible for a Christian to be overtaken by a transgression. It is possible for a believer “to be taken by surprise.” Because any Christian can be overtaken in a fault, two commandments are given to the Church.
First, those who are spiritually mature in the local fellowship must make every effort to restore the person who has been swept away with anger, bitterness, jealousy, vindictiveness, or a moral failure.
Second, the restorative effort must be made in a spirit of meekness, for meekness, or gentleness, is a Christian virtue.
This word for “restore,” conveys the idea of fishermen mending their nets. The word is also used of a doctor who sets dislocated limbs. Knowledge and gentleness are needed. Martin Luther said that when a brother falls into sin we should run to him, comfort him, and embrace him with motherly arms.
What Paul is teaching, is that the Church must have a ministry of restoration to the weak. When the local Church plans its choir, and youth program, worship committee, and mission outreach, let the Church include a ministry of restoration. On that the committee should serve the most spiritual men, women, and young people in the Church. The royal command comes.
2 Bear ye one anothers burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
A restorative ministry is a reciprocal ministry within the household of faith, whereby the burdens, or moral faults of others, are addressed. The faults of the saints are not to be covered up, but they are to be confronted, and covered with love. Paul knows that a restorative ministry is needed in the Church, because the saints have lots of burdens, or faults.
In context, the burdens in view are those of some personal failure. Christians are human, and wrestle with forgiveness, hatred, anger, various addictions, depression, a critical spirit, profanity, and much more. Individuals have “issues,” to use a modern phrase. But then, God’s people have always had “issues.” Consider some of the people in the Bible, and how they were overcome with some fault.
Adam was a blame-shifter (Gen. 3:12). It is hard for individuals to accept personal responsibility. We would rather play the victim, or, just say, “The Devil made me do it.”
Eve had an eating disorder (Gen. 3:6).
Cain murdered his brother (Gen. 4:8).
Noah became drunk, and slept in the nude in public (Gen. 9:20-21).
Abraham let another man walk off with his wife, twice (Gen. 12; 20).
Sarah let her husband be promiscuous with Hagar, and then hated him for it (Gen. 16).
Lot was a very greedy man (Gen. 18-20).
Rebekah, the first mail order bride, became a very scheming wife (Gen. 27).
Jacob was a pathological deceiver (Gen. 25, 27, 30).
Rachel turned out to be a kleptomaniac (Gen. 31:19).
Reuben, the pride and firstborn of Jacob, proved to be a pervert (Gen. 35:21).
Moses, the meekest man on earth, had fits of anger (Ex. 2, 32:19; Numbers 20:11).
Miriam, the songwriter, and sister of Moses, had a serious problem with jealousy, and a lust for power (Num. 12).
Samson ended up taking his own life (Judges 16).
Saul, the first king of Israel had episodes of deep depression, and paranoia (1 Sam. 16, 18, 19, 31).
David tried to conceal an inappropriate relationship through murder (2 Sam. 11).
Peter acted cowardly. He denied Jesus three times, but was later restored.
Most of the time, Christians have enough self-awareness to stand in judgment upon themselves, and correct their own behavior. However, it is possible to be swept away with some emotion, make a wrong decision, and need help. When possible, those who are spiritual can engage in a restorative ministry, help those in need, and so fulfill the law of Christ.