One of the realities we all must face as Christians is that there may come a time when a fellow brother or sister is caught in sin. It is possible that brother or sister might be us. These are not easy moments, but what can you do if you need to help a brother or sister caught in sin? I want to share with you some suggestions.
Should You Help?
The first thing to consider is whether you should help someone caught in a sin. Here is what the Bible says.
“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” (Galatians 6:1).
According to this instruction, there should be help offered to a Christian caught in sin. However, that help may not automatically come from you, because there are some qualifiers as to who should help them.
The main qualifier in offering help is making sure you are spiritually mature. Dealing with a person’s sin is not something that everyone can handle – for a wide variety of reasons. If you are not qualified or are not mature enough to handle the situation, then make sure you find someone who can. This is not only in their best interests, but also in yours.
3 Things to Consider if You Are Going to Help
If you have decided to help this person, then here are some things to consider.
1. Is This Person Willing to Repent?
Any help offered must begin with this person’s attitude toward their sin. This is where repentance comes into play.
People can often confuse remorse and repentance. Remorse can be part of repentance, but they are not the same thing. True repentance involves a desire to change. Either you are changing your mind about your actions or changing your direction to avoid repeating the sin. Many times, remorse does not come from a desire to change behavior but results from the person getting caught in their sin.
Before you can help someone, you must determine their attitude concerning their sin and see if there is a genuine desire to repent. If that does not exist, and they just feel bad because they got caught, then you can stop there because this person is not ready to be restored. When there is genuine sorrow over their sin and a desire to repent, at that point this person is positioned to be helped and restored.
2. Is the Person Willing to Ask Forgiveness from Those They Hurt?
One of the things that must also be considered is if the sin that was committed hurt or caused pain to other people. If it did, then part of the restoration process would require that person to seek forgiveness from the parties that were offended. If there was a public offense, then forgiveness and repentance at some point may have to be addressed publicly. If the offense was a private one, then this step may not be necessary.
Regardless, if it was public or private, the person who committed the sin must ask for forgiveness from the offended parties. They will not be able to control whether these people will forgive them, but forgiveness must be sought nonetheless. By doing this, it is an acknowledgement of their actions and a necessary step in restoration because this person is taking accountability for their own sinful actions.
3. Is the Person Willing to Do the Work Necessary to Change?
The real rubber meeting the road in this process is if the person is willing to do the necessary work that requires the change of behavior. Sinful activity doesn’t just happen, there are usually a series of small decisions along the way that lead to the sinful outcome. Is the person sincerely willing to change the things that led to the sinful behavior?
This type of change will require removing the influences that contributed to the person falling into sin. These influences can come from several places, but if the person is serious about repentance and restoration, they will be willing to change them. This goes back to the difference between remorse and repentance. A person can feel bad about what they did but still have no desire to change their behavior or remove the influences that caused the behavior. This person is not ready for repentance and therefore is not ready to be restored.
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What Does True Restoration Mean?
It is quite possible the person seeking restoration is simply looking to get back to the place they were in before they got caught in sin. It is important to realize that restoration involves much more than that. Getting back to the things you were doing before is a lower priority. Here is the order restoration should flow in.
1. Restored fellowship with God – When there is continuous sin in a person’s life, their fellowship with God is broken. The first thing that needs to be restored is this relationship. True repentance will cause this to happen.
2. Restored family relationships – If the sin caused an issue with family members, primarily the spouse and children, then those become the second priority that needs to be addressed. If your sin has hurt the home, then the home needs to be repaired. This may take some time to happen, but seeking forgiveness and changing behavior will be necessary to make this happen.
3. Restored other relationships – After immediate family members, then any other people hurt by the sinful actions need to be considered. This is another place where repentance and seeking forgiveness come into play.
4. Restoring career position – If the offense has hurt your immediate job situation, then it is important that you work to rebuild that. If you have lost a job, then unless you have a means of income, you need to begin looking for a new one. This may not allow you to work in the capacity you did before, but you should work, especially if you have a family to support.
5. Restoring ministry position – If your offense has damaged your place in ministry, this is the last thing that needs to be restored. This becomes the lowest priority because as you can see, there are many other people that you need to make amends with before you jump back into ministry. You also need to insure you can handle the responsibilities and temptations if you do. This is especially true if the sin or temptation was related to the ministry position.
So many people, after being caught in sin, want to deal with it quickly so they can get back to their lives. This is not always possible and there are some sins that, even though you receive forgiveness, you may never get back to the place in ministry you had before. I am not saying it can’t happen, but make sure you have addressed all the parameters so that you lower the possibility of repeating these types of sinful behaviors. People that don’t want to do this and rush to get back to where they were will often end up repeating the same sinful patterns and behaviors.
When a person is caught in sin, the restoration process may not be quick; it may be an enduring process. That’s why Paul encourages those who are spiritual and mature to engage in this process. I fully believe if a person is willing to repent, then they can be restored. They may not get back everything they lost, because there are some consequences of sin that may not be undone. But they can have restored fellowship and find forgiveness. However, the key to all of this starts with a person who is willing to repent. Without that desire you cannot help any Christian caught in a sin.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.