Did you notice the word, “restore”, in that version? The phrase, “forgivingly restore”? Take a moment to consider how that could prompt a ripple effect, where the restored turn around and become “restorers” for others. I love that thought.
At the time this was written, and regrettably, in modern times as well, the desire to maintain a strict or severe attitude toward sin oftentimes translates into callous or even cruel treatment toward those who have stumbled along their faith journey.
The Interpreters Study Bible poses these questions, “what does a follower do with another follower who has [fallen]? What is our attitude toward those who [make mistakes]? What is our obligation to the one who has failed? What is the responsibility of the corporate fellowship of the church?” It goes on to say that, “The Apostle Paul seems to suggest that we are to feel on a level with the one who falls. We are to regard ourselves as fellow sinners. Regard ourselves as no better, no worse.” It’s an even playing field.
I’m reminded of the statement attributed to John Bradford in the sixteenth century, as he watched a group of prisoners being led to execution, “Therefore but by the grace of God go I.”
Luke 22:32 finds Jesus, on the night that he was betrayed, sharing these words with Peter, “32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’
When you have turned back, strengthen the others. What powerful words. There is no more effective way to do this than to share with others what Christ has done for us.
This is why community is so important, because sometimes we just can’t bear the burden alone. And we may know with our minds that God is with us but we just don’t feel it. To bear one another’s burdens goes a step further than saying an encouraging word. It involves stepping out, recognizing that we can fall just as easily as the next person. It includes compassion and grace.
One of my favorite illustrations of this is about a little girl who was late getting home from school. Her mother was starting to worry and had just opened the door to go and look for her, when she saw her daughter coming up the steps. She asked her child, “Where have you been?!”
“Mommy, Janie dropped her art project and it smashed into pieces.”
“Oh… okay. That makes sense. You stopped to help her pick it up?” her mother said.
“No,” said the girl. “I stopped to help her cry.”
This little girl inherently knew something that we as adults often forget. Simply being present may help to lighten a burden and help a hurting individual to meet another hour, another day, another season.
May today find us opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit in order to help meet others in their need and in doing so, share the love of Christ for the glory of God. Amen.
Pastor Susan Nyquist