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Restoration in a Transformational Community 7Learning from Your Own Brokenness How to Be a Safe Person 

How do you unlearn deeply ingrained judgmental beliefs that get in the way of loving someone enough to engage in their restoration? Paul’s answer is to watch yourself or you too may be tempted. He is saying self-knowledge of your own vulnerability plays a role in being able to restore others caught in sin. The recognition that there is no sin that could not also trap you if you were not held safe by God is critical. How does this work out in real life?

One answer is not what I wish for anyone, but I can tell you 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 onto as foundational up till then. It is hard to unlearn faulty beliefs until you discover this personally. The lightbulb moment when you really see the consequences of your own addictions and God’s mercy and grace to restore you, will start you looking at the failures in those you lead with ever so much more understanding and compassion. A ‘search me, God, and see if there is some wicked way in me’ approach may make you a more able servant of God than any Bible knowledge you have ever gained.

Some sins seem so much more devastating than others. Extra-curricular sexual dalliances, especially with a child, top many believers’ list. Brutality in the home, the duplicity of a double life, lying which results in destroying someone’s reputation, amorality in life—we are often hard pressed to believe these people are even Christians. “I would never do that. Let them go, they will never willingly repent!” is the thought that allows us to be at peace with not trying to restore them.

But here is the reality of depravity. There is nothing we could not do and, but for the grace of God, you and I would not do. Incest? Murder? Robbing the elderly and the poor? We would like to say, “No, I’d never.” But if we’d never it is God alone who empowers us to ‘never.’ And perhaps you have done things—though those days are long behind you.

You need this level of candor about your own brokenness to become safe. And for your church to be a safe church, you have to lead the congregation to understand this with you. Many churches are unsafe because people are afraid to be transparent about their own sin. Judging others is actually a defensive reaction to keep the spotlight off from themselves.

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.” is the confession of the safe church. There is zero difference between the ability of any of us to be good for God. We all could be in the pit if left to our own devices. But we should neither fear this nor abandon others because it happened to them. It is because God gives us grace by the Spirit that we, as one family, should fearlessly restore each other. Unlearning judgmental beliefs in order to learn love is what spiritually maturing people do.

Steve Smith