Restoration in a Transformational Community 13: Learning through Personal Experience

How does one unlearn deeply ingrained beliefs that hamper the work of restoring someone caught up in sin? One answer is not what I would wish for anyone, but I know that the day that I crashed and burned—when my sin was publicly outed by God—was the day I finally unlearned the beliefs I had so painstakingly held on to as foundational up till then. I found out that I stopped looking at the failures in those I pastored with ever so much more judgment than compassion. The truth is that it is hard to unlearn faulty beliefs until you jump into the pit personally and have to be rescued.

Think about Peter and his denial of Jesus just hours after declaring that he would never leave Jesus’ side even if it meant death. His willingness to pull out a sword and fight the platoon who had come to arrest Jesus in the garden tells us the depth of his mistaken theology. Fight! Fight for Jesus. Kill those who oppose him. Bring them to their knees. Except… Jesus stopped him and repaired the damage he had done. His kingdom was not of this world—didn’t Peter get that?

No.

In fact, not until his denial and his restoration by Jesus did he get it. Jesus’ kingdom was much bigger and more powerfully able to change people’s lives than any puny revolution he and his ragged band of brothers could pull off. Peter’s personal ability to live the life would never be the same after that.

What Peter—and all the other disciples–learned about restoration between the cross and Jesus’ ascension changed the world. It changed how they would do Jesus’ ministry in the world. Jesus taught Peter through his failure more than Peter had understood up to that moment.

I am afraid that is usually true for all of us. We are so often tempted to stand apart from and slightly above those in the clutch of sin. They are a mess. They may never be useful to Jesus’ kingdom again. I used to think this way—until it was my mess. Until Jesus restored me. Until my eyes were opened and I understood how the good news of Jesus was so different from religious morality and judgmentalism. He did not offer a way back through the valley of humiliation so I could be on probation. His gospel is about full restoration and usefulness. It’s about a no condemnation way to wholeness. It’s about discovering that I still belonged.

The moment you see your own addictions and failure in this light, your compassion as a believer caught in sin will change. And your passion for restoring that person will also change. It is your brokenness and gratefulness to Jesus for holding on to you that will make you into someone who is a dedicated restorer.

Steve Smith