Restoration in a Transformational Community 15: Character Matters

In a long phone conversation with a lawyer bent on protecting his client from a deeply needed restoration process, I was being berated and threatened with a lawsuit. At some point, I stopped talking because he wasn’t listening anyway.

What this man did not understand was he was using his power to do harm. As he hammered home his threats, he felt that he had won. I knew he had lost, not against me, but against his client, who so needed to be freed from the grip of the lies of the enemy. His protector left him in the pit and more harm came as a result.

I have seen myself misuse power too. This is the one aspect of the Fall that catches us out. In the church, power cannot only make us judgmental, it can turn us into judge, jury and executioner. Instead of restoring someone, we can find ourselves destroying the person. Finding a person guilty as charged can spark a retaliatory stance in us. We may find in us the desire not to restore as much as to make the person suffer humiliation and follow our ‘rules’ before we are satisfied.

This is why Paul is pretty specific about what kind of character matters in restoration. In Galatians 6:1 he reminds potential restorers to be humble enough to recognize how easily they themselves might be tempted by sin.  He suggests they need gentleness to do the work of restoring someone caught in sin.

Don’t be fooled by the word ‘gentle.’ This word was the designation for a bridled horse. All horses are powerful animals, many of whom can kick you into next week with their hind legs. Or bite your fingers off as you try to slip the bar of a bridle into their mouths. But a gentled horse does neither. He stands there, ready to be mounted and ridden. No rider can match its strength, but the gentled horse surrenders its strength to the rider’s full control.

This is the gentleness Paul had in mind as he instructed the Galatians on restoration. You have power to judge, to exclude, to even destroy people who have failed. It is in our nature to do this. Their failure perversely inflates our view of ourselves as superior saints. We think: “I did not get caught in sin like they did. I am faithful!”

Gentleness suggests that this display of pride is wasted on the person needing restoration. They need our strength to be under God’s control. To allow His Spirit to keep us hanging in there. To tell them unhappy truths in love. To chase them as they wander through the maze of Satan’s lies and show a resistance to temptation’s pull all at the same time.

You do not get this kind of character out of a box. It is the product of the Spirit, included in the list of the fruit he generates in those who keep in step with him. If you are serious about learning restoration, you have to ask God to allow His Spirit to infuse you with the fruit of gentleness. You will never overcome a judgmental attitude, secret though it may be, without Him doing it in you.

Steve Smith