How do you know if someone’s spiritual?
If he quotes Bible verses, sports Christian t-shirts or plasters his bumpers with rapture stickers? If she has visions or utters long, flowery prayers? If he can find the book of Habakkuk within 30 seconds? (Now that’s really spiritual).
Apparently some in Galatia thought they were spiritual, perhaps for their law-keeping, so Paul set them straight:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (GA 6.1).
Spiritual people restore sinners with gentleness.
To be “caught in any transgression” can mean to fall suddenly into sin, like stepping into a bear trap. We didn’t mean to get angry, but got into an emotional discussion and next thing lashed out in anger. We didn’t intend to lust, then an image presented itself, and we gave into it.
Being “caught in any transgression” can also mean we’ve become enslaved by a habitual sin.
How do we react at finding brothers or sisters ensnared by sin? Do we look down on them in disgust or judge them? When our children blow it do we shake our heads and say, “What were you thinking?” (This was one of my parents’ favorite questions when I was a kid. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking anything.) Do we gasp in disbelief, “How could you do this?” or bludgeon them with, “After all I’ve done for you…”
How would you respond if a brother confided to you he was enslaved to pornography? Or if your daughter confessed she was pregnant? What would you do if you caught your teenager lying?
Think how Jesus spoke to the woman caught in adultery – he didn’t condemn or grimace in disgust, but restored her gently and compassionately. He didn’t ask “How in the world could you be so unfaithful?” but said, “I don’t condemn you. Go and sin no more.” I’m sure one of the reasons society’s outcasts were attracted to Jesus was they knew how gently he dealt with sinners.
I want my fellow sinners, whether friends or family, to feel they can confide their temptations and sins with me, knowing I’ll seek to gently restore them to Jesus. After all, it might be me confessing next time.
photo by Jim Linwood