The second process of restoration involves the rescue of a believer. Sanctification is never smooth, and sometimes Satan snares us in sins that are so serious we find ourselves estranged from the Lord and His people. Paul grieved over Demas who deserted him “because he loved this world” (2 Timothy 4:10). He also lamented those who “shipwrecked” because they lost a grip on their faith and a good conscience (1 Timothy 1:19).
As discouraging as it might be to watch a brother or sister in Christ turn to sin, the clear message from scripture is one of hope. In fact, the Bible provides a methodology for restoring believers. Earlier we referenced Christ’s teaching on conflict management where He asked us to resolve our differences with others personally. If a personal meeting isn’t successful, we are to return with one or two witnesses, and as a last resort take the matter to others in the church. While these principles have more to do with restoring relationships, they provide a good framework for confronting sin. I have been confronted more than once in my walk with the Lord by a caring brother or sister in Christ who feared for my spiritual safety. And I have performed the same rescue mission for others. This is what we are supposed to do. James wrote, “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
Unfortunately, sometimes our confrontations fall on deaf ears and we must make the painful decision to put boundaries between the church family and a brother or sister who is involved in a destructive sinful activity. But even then, the hope is always for restoration. Paul demanded swift action by the Corinthian church when a man having an affair with his step-mother was being allowed to sin openly. Yet, even in this extreme case the goal was restoration. Paul wrote, “Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5).
Restoring a brother or sister in Christ is difficult since the human mind is skilled at deflection, rationalization and avoidance. The defense mechanisms we all use when we struggle make it hard for others to break through. But when there is restoration, there is great joy. Who can forget the elation in the voice of the prodigal son’s father who proclaimed, “This brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32). Or who cannot understand the passion of David when he wrote, “Weeping may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
People who don’t understand Biblical grace may be confused by this process of restoration. Either they don’t think loving people should confront one another, or they don’t think believers who hurt others should be given a second chance. The first argument fails to recognize our responsibility to others who are caught in a sin. The second denies the power of redemption, which lies at the heart of the gospel.
I have heard our culture is starved for the “authentic” message of Christ. People don’t care about the bells and whistles we use to grab their attention. They don’t want to hear a bunch of nice sounding words from a preacher on a stage. They just want something real.
In my opinion, nothing is as real as a believer who wears grace on his sleeve as Christ remakes him from the inside out. Nothing is more authentic than a brother or sister who has been snatched from the fire by another believer, and gently restored to faith. The process isn’t always pretty, but it is radiant. And which would you rather see: the perfect bride who doesn’t need anyone, or the humble bride whose countenance shines because her future husband, family and friends love her no matter what? It doesn’t take me long to conclude which image will make Christ’s Bride attractive to the world.