How to Minister to Someone Caught in Sin

July 2019
Jeremiah Krieger
Gal. 6:1 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.
Several years ago, I served in a ministry where a friend made a poor decision that hurt a lot of people. An infelicitous moment where his emotions got the best of him resulted in people who were hurt. Others were disappointed. He eventually lost his job. Nobody wants to fail. It is humiliating. Yet, nobody wants to see people we love make poor decisions. It is disheartening. We want those we love to succeed in making right choices. But just because we accept Christ as our Savior doesn’t make us immune from sin. It doesn’t insulate us from stupidity. It doesn’t protect us from rash decisions. Moments like these can happen to the best of us, and when they happen how we respond is crucial.
I have often wondered about how my friend was treated by members within the Christian community. I imagine that most were surprisingly supportive of my friend, but when someone is caught in sin, I sometimes wonder what the right response ought to be. Many of us might recall times when we failed and were castigated by others. We might assume that is the appropriate response. But we might be surprised to learn that Scripture teaches a different way than shaming people caught in sin.
In Galatians 6, the Apostle Paul prescribes the appropriate response to the condition when we catch someone in sin. The Apostle Paul gives the imperative to restore that person. The faithful in Christ are to work to restore the sinner— not to humiliate and air dirty laundry before others, but to restore.
What is challenging about this command is the manner that it is to be practiced. The Apostle Paul says that sinners are to be restored in a manner of gentleness. Another word that can be used is kindness. Kindness.
You mean that when someone does wrong, I am supposed to be kind to them? Yep. Kind. Gentle. Patient. Not harsh. Not rude. Not condescending. Not passive aggressive. But kind.
That might surprise us because in real life, when people fail us we might have been taught by the examples of others to try to get even, to slander that person, to shun that person, or worse. In our culture, we see the reputations of politicians smeared on TV during election cycles because of sins that might have been decades old. And sometimes we might be tempted to pattern after the examples we learned from others.
But Paul says to restore that person in kindness. Not only that but he says to be careful. Watch out for our own heart because you too could also fall into sin. The concession of Paul is the possibility of personal temptation. We might think, “I would never (fill in the blank). Maybe you might actually not. You might prevail under temptation. You might not. But Paul might say never say never. Watch out for sin.
I think we would all agree that sin really stinks. Temptation can be torturous. It can make swamp water look like the overpriced water in the Fiji bottle we purchased for $5 at the gas station. And we all fall for it sometimes, and it leaves our stomach churning in regret. When it happens to us, we truly would yearn for the grace of others who discover our impropriety.
If we have a friend or loved one who has goofed up, and especially if they have repented and turned away from sin, then let’s have a heart that is patient and kind toward that person. Let’s help that person to get on his feet and to enjoy fellowship with Christ and with the Christian community. We never know when we might need that kindness reciprocated toward us.
Pastor Jeremiah

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