Back on July 25th, Tim Taylor brought a message to the Lake Placid congregation from Galatians 6:1-3 to show them the biblical response of the church to sinners who do what sinners do best: sin. This was in preparation for the “new vision” God is laying out for the Lake Placid church in this small town of 1700, which is joined in the efforts of Kingdom-building by multiple denominations and churches. The key to “growth” or the sustenance of the church in the future will be in its ability to reach a different segment of the community, people who drag along with them, the effects of their sins: addictions, divorce, etc. Pastor Tim is on to something. Perhaps he understands that many “saved” people find it difficult to embrace people different from themselves.
As an example of how the church should respond to sinners, he used John 8, the woman caught in the act of adultery. Un-condemned by Jesus, she is told to go and sin no more. Galatians 6 seems to go further. This is about those who being part of the church (fellow believers) who get tripped up (stumble and fall). Being part of the body, they are like a limb that has become out of joint. The dislocated limb must gently be put back in place before it can heal.
There is no room for spiritual arrogance when a brother or sister falls. No “I’m-better-than-you-because-it-didn’t happen-to-me!” No if you were as spiritual as me this never would have happened! Sin happens! The key is how we are going to react when sin happens? Paul gives us direction: “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently…” (Galatians 6:1)
The Greek word for restore is used of a dislocated limb, reduced to its place. Such is the tenderness with which we should treat a fallen member of the Church in restoring him to a better state. I Googled dislocated shoulder and learned from OrthoInfo that the shoulder joint is the body’s most mobile joint. It can turn in many directions. But, this advantage also makes the shoulder an easy joint to dislocate. It went on to explain that “A partial dislocation (subluxation) means the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) is partially out of the socket (glenoid). A complete dislocation means it is all the way out of the socket. Both partial and complete dislocation cause pain and unsteadiness in the shoulder.”
This is apparently not the easiest thing to “re-locate.” Actually, the term is called “closed reduction.” “The doctor will place the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) back into the joint socket. Severe pain stops almost immediately once the shoulder joint is back in place.” One can only imagine the pain if the doctor were doing this with the patient conscious! Knock me out!
The doctor will place the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) back into the joint socket. This process is called closed reduction. The patient is given some mild sedation and pain medicine, usually through an intravenous line. Often, the physician will pull on the shoulder until the joint is realigned. How hard must the physician pull? Would it be a gentle or severe pull? Sounds painful to me! A reduction cannot occur without pain and the need for rehabilitation and therapy almost goes without saying. Reduction is confirmed on an X-ray and the shoulder is then placed in a sling or special brace. For the period of recuperation, the walking wounded would be obvious. So, Paul’s admonition has to do with how we treat those whose sin has knocked them out of socket from the body of Christ?
Gently restore in a spirit of meekness–the meekness which is the gift of the Holy Spirit working in our spirit (Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:25). “Meekness” is that temper of spirit towards God whereby we accept His dealings without disputing; then, towards men, whereby we endure meekly their provocations, and do not withdraw ourselves from the burdens which their sins impose upon us [TRENCH]. Does this not have to do with the spirit or attitude with which discipline is meted out?
CONSIDERING YOURSELF–Transition from the plural to the singular. When congregations are addressed collectively, each individual should take home the monition to himself. But for the grace of God, there go I.
YOU ALSO ARE TEMPTED–as is likely to happen to those who reprove others without meekness (compare Matthew 7:2-5, 2 Timothy 2:25, 2:13). No one is immune so never get too cocky or arrogant.
Those of us who operate at the adjudicatory level of the church are bound by certain rules of discipline. At times, the best we can hope for is a sinner’s restoration to relationship with Christ. What cannot be guaranteed is a restoration to credentialed status as a leader among God’s people. No one could ever be prevented from restoration to a right relationship with God. This is why Christ suffered, died and was raised to life. Return to a previous position and trust and authority in the church is not guaranteed. Obviously, we think this is not a violation of Paul’s exhortation concerning those who fall from grace in the church.
David F. Nixon, D.Min.
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