Back in 2010 I spent many long weeks in the hospital with my father. One night, an alarm sounded on the hall and the ICU wing went into action immediately. I stepped over to the doorway and could see a crew rushing toward a room down the hall. Through the glass enclosure, I saw the medical team surround the bed and begin emergency procedures. I watched an attempted rescue operation, until someone pulled the curtain blocking the view.
I looked back at my father who never stirred. He wasn’t even aware that within feet of his bed someone’s life hung in the balance.
And I wondered.
How many times have I dozed, or been zoned out by the busyness of life, or so caught up in my own struggles that I miss the critical condition of a brother or sister who sits in the church only a few feet from me? One who may be at the point of expiring, has lost all strength, and is at a critical point, willing to throw in the towel and give up the battle?
What has God put in place as an emergency resource for the fallen?
I’m so thankful for ministries that specialize in “emergency care” for believers who struggle with addiction, for those who have resources to support the family, and for organizations that offer help to the hopeless, but these wonderful networks cannot replace the role of the Church in the life of a fallen member.
What is our responsibility when one of our own reaches the critical state?
[box]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. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1–2)[/box]
On the practical level, how do we step in and “carry” a fallen brother or sister?
How do we aid in the restoration process?
- Cultivate a Grace Environment
The recovery process should begin long before the fall. What I mean by that is, we should prepare for the fall. Knowing that we live in a fallen world, fight a vicious enemy, and battle with flesh that is prone to indulgence, we should not be shocked when one in our company falls. (I’m not advocating an atmosphere that justifies or excuses sin, but one that graciously acknowledges it as a realistic possibility.) We are all needy and Galatians warns us that even the spiritually mature are in danger of falling.
The Church should extend a welcoming heart and provide assurance of a place of safety for the fallen. In the same way that the prodigal son knew he could return to his father, the fallen comrade should think of our body as his first place of safe return. The Church should be known as a body of people who are gracious and biblical in our interactions with sinners—whether it is the unconverted sinner or the sinner within our membership.
Tomorrow I’ll share with you some additional components that the Church needs for the restoration process.
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