In 1976 I bought a 1965 Mustang with 88,000 miles on it for $350. It had been left in a barnyard parking lot and it was covered in pine sap, left buried by the snow plow, and had a number of dings. My dad and I went over, jumped the battery, and drove it the 120 miles to my garage in Connecticut. I carefully began to take it apart, bagging every bolt, and marking parts with masking tape and a Magic Marker. For three and a half months I cleaned, sanded, welded, ratcheted bolts, turned screws, ran wires and finally it was ready for orange paint and black racing stripes.
In the process of restoration, I took the best parts, cleaned them up and bought new ones as needed. It took 3 Mustangs to make one-- one fully restored 2+2 fastback. Some days the process was arduous as I found more rust, traced severed electrical wires, broke off the oil sensor in the engine block and skinned more than a few knuckles. I kept up my moral by taking it out for a few rides around the block during the reconstruction.
The process of restoration in people, although analogous to my Mustang, is a bit different. When Christians fail morally, we can't just take them apart, or piece them together with parts from another person. No, we have to take the broken and battered soul, and find a way to be vessels for the Holy Spirit so they can be regenerated them.
2 Corinthians 5:19-20 ..."that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
What do we do when a brother or sister in Christ fails? We have seen ministers fail from the PTL Club, to Ted Haggerty and Priests of the Boston Dioceses. But what do we do when someone from our church falls into a sexual relationship outside marriage, an intercessor shows up having had a few too many at home group, an elder gets divorced or one of our favorite teens is arrested for selling drugs? What is the church supposed to do about sin?
Here are the responses that I often see.
-1 Do nothing, every one sins.
-2 Call them on the carpet and ask them to leave the church.
-3 Call a meeting of the leadership to discuss this sinful person openly with the congregation.
-4 Pray for them and hope their lives get better.
-5 Ignore them hoping that they'll leave of their own volition.
-6 Provide pastoral counsel to see if anything can be done.
Certainly we don't reject sinners who are repentant of their sins. I am not talking about the unsaved today. I am talking about those that are genuinely saved. How do we restore them without taking one the above mentioned short-sighted approaches? Certainly the Bible says that we are to rebuke a sinful believer in private and when they will not listen, to bring along another believer to try to convince them to repent. Surly there are those that do not want to be restored and can be rebuked from the pulpit and put out of the church. That is the Biblical mandate. For the unrepentant, we are to sever fellowship. But then what? Shall we glory in our authority? I think not.
There are many people in church that get saved but still have addictions, failing marriages and a myriad of other dysfunctions. There are some good Christian recovery groups, meaningful books, classes, and small group curriculums. Some churches make these available, and others do not. In some cases they become just another church program that misses what God really wants to do.
For those that are truly relational, we want to understand the person's failure, be sensitive to their shame and guilt, while being firm about the changes that must be made in their lives. We are never to punish, yet we cannot allow them to continue participating in leadership or authoritative roles of any kind. These can be difficult decisions when someone plays an important role in the church. However; regardless of a members stature, we need to be godly, loving and predictable in addressing sin.
Real restoration need to address the root of the sin issue. We can't be fooled by cunning addicts, and liars. We need to be factual in dealing with denial and delusions of grandeur. More importantly we need to walk it out with our fallen friend because we too, could also fall. The fallen need fathering, consequences and nurturing. It takes godly wisdom to apply loving pressure, while being ready to give grace and mercy. Restoration takes time, counsel, accountability and eventually a proven track record showing the fruit of the spirit.
King David, although he did not ever achieve the same status he had before his sin with Bathsheba and her husband, was allowed by God to continue on as King. He continued to write and many Psalms are attributed to him. And thus he was a man after God's heart.
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
How about you, do you need to be restored?