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Restoration in a Transformational Community 9Avoid Being a Rescuer

One of my friends asked my opinion about how to handle a person he was mentoring in the faith. It seems that this person is beginning to have success in his work. He is becoming known in his field. People are calling him, recruiting him to speak to their leaders. However, he had become personally involved with one of his employees. When challenged about this, he blew it off as an everybody-makes-a-mistake kind of slip. His pushback bothered my friend. He was wondering how to bring about restoration for this man. I encouraged him not to be a rescuer.

What is the difference between being a safe person bringing about restoration and being a rescuer? The distinction comes when your spiritual concern as a mature believer is not heard and the other believer does not acknowledge the need to realign his or her life with God’s reign. Rescuing is pursuing someone too long when it is clear that person is defiantly moving towards becoming spiritually toxic.

Paul, who wrote Galatians 6:1-2, also wrote 1 Corinthians 5. In that part of his I-can’t-believe-I have-to-address-these-issues letter to the Corinth church, he is dealing with the outrageous behavior of a church that is averting its eyes from a scandalous sin in their midst. A believer is openly living with a woman who is his step-mother, coming to the gathering with her on his arm. Pagans are even shocked. Using his apostolic authority, Paul directs them to put him out of the church immediately and then proceeds to remind them that he had instructed that no one should eat with believers who lived like this.

It seems clear that the man was not concerned about righteousness. This was not just the behavior of someone unaware of what God called sin. His pagan culture did not even approve of it. But, the unwholesome slogan of the Corinth church was, “I have the right to do anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23) He evidently reasoned that his new faith allowed him to do any immoral thing he always secretly desired to do. God does not care because He forgives all. In addition, we see a sense of defiance in this action. He did not appear to care in the face of Paul’s previous instructions not to associate with sexually immoral people.

So what if someone says NO? Shouldn’t you just give him more time and wait for the Spirit to convict him that he needs to get well? Listen, this is not just about the NO, but about becoming toxic. He or she may not know how toxic they have become. But their sin is causing harm to others. These are people who want to play the game—have it their way and expect both you and God to accept them because they are satisfied that what they are doing is none of your business.

This stance of defiance is the dividing line between restoration and the need to let that person fall under God’s discipline. Restoration can only start when a person says YES to the question, “Do you want to get well?” You are looking for repentance and brokenness in this process. When a person does not want to get well, actively boasts about his or her rebellious choices, being a rescuer is futile and painful.

Steve Smith