I watched someone publicly fall from grace unsurprised at the emotional outpouring of the social media jury. Having been on the receiving end of it, I learned the wisdom of staying above the emotions and investigating the full story coolly. What surprised me was some of the responses from Christians in the lack of grace, and reconciliation. It is a common response to scandals so I will not have to detail which one.
You can come back from anything, that is the power of the Gospel’s message.
If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10: 9
Moses killed a person, ran, and was later called to lead a newborn nation. Peter, the Rock of the church, denied Jesus three times and weeks later preached a message that led over 3000 to the same Christ he had denied. Paul persecuted and murdered Christians and later became one of the greatest missionaries who reasoned on street corners, with philosophers, and Roman rulers. Some modern examples, like Ron Bronski who tried to murder a rival gang member and ran. Later, he found Jesus and turned himself in years later after the police stopped looking for him. The judge, shocked by the turnaround, did not send him to prison. Do you know an addict? Have you seen one turn their lives around? There is reconciliation and redemption.
The tendency to stone each other, disown them, and turn away is in all of us. Just because we are forgiven does not mean we can do whatever, something that Paul reminded the Galatians of in Galatians 5:13-15. He knew the inner war to get self-righteous and give in to his base nature, as a Pharisee that was one of the charges Jesus leveled at them often. I have detailed my tendency to do the same like when my wife tells me what is going on with this person or that one. I am usually checking off different things on a ‘checklist’, the deeds of the flesh are apparent and I am guilty of much of what is listed in Galatians 5: 19-21. When we behave with strife, angry outbursts, disputes, among other things; we look just like everyone else. The only difference others see between the Christian and everyone else is they ‘wear a cross and know some verses.’
We have to repeatedly kill that part of us, as detailed in Galatians 5:24 and Romans 12: 1-2. The good news is we do not have to do it in our own strength. In John 15, particularly verses 6-8, Jesus said those that remain in him would produce much fruit. It is evidenced by the attitude change that Paul called the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: 22-23. Alone, we are like batteries, plugged in, and drained until it is recharged again until it cannot hold the charge anymore and then it is tossed out. The other option is hooking a power cord to a nuclear power plant and never running low. Paul closes Galatians 5 by admonishing us to walk in the Spirit, to not be boastful or jealous.
Now that we have pulled the planks from our eyes and passed around the Visine, the question remains. What about when a Christian sins? Paul also dealt with that in his letter to Galatia (modern day Turkey). Those who are mature and responsive to the Holy Spirit should set them right, restore, and reinstate them. Doing it without a sense of superiority, but with gentleness, being careful to not fall themselves. If our ego or pride in ourselves rises, then we are not the ones for the job; in fact, I would probably be the first one disqualified.
What I can do, what we are called to do in Galatians 6: 2-5, is to listen and encourage, because we are all broken deep down. We are all willfully messed up, and an open ear with encouraging words is what we would want instead of being stoned and left bleeding. When we do well, we can be happy and proud of it, but not by comparing ourselves to others. If you want to do that, compare yourself to Christ and see how boastful you can be in light of that. Verse 5 has this reminder, everyone has to bear the responsibility of their actions as they walk the earth; that person’s load does not make yours any lighter.
We are missing at times the very thing that made the early Christians stand out. That is the love they had for each other and everyone outside of the early church. A love that is more than a feeling; it was put into action to care for others. Where is that today in our lives?