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Restoration in a Transformational Community 3: What is Restoration?

My first exposure to restoration of sinful people took place at the church I attended during my college years. I was dumbfounded first when a lovable church member got mixed up with ‘the other woman’ and left his family and the church. Then a grandmotherly woman who had personally invested in me raged publicly at the pastor and left the congregation with her husband trailing after. “What’s happening here?” we who were left behind wondered. I also remember the day when the man, back in church months later, stood unexpectedly and confessed his sin to the whole church as his wife sobbed by his side. Two years after college, I was back for a visit. I found that the spiritual leader of the men’s ministry was now that man and the spiritual leader of the women’s ministry was now that grandmotherly woman.

What took place over that period of time was biblical restoration. But what exactly is it? Before I give my definition, here are a couple of things it isn’t. Restoration is not to be equated with forgiveness. A lot of people in the church get these two confused. In the new covenant, people are forgiven the moment they turn from sin and repent. But this does not mean they are safe from the schemes of Satan, who desires to pull them back into destruction. Nor are they safe for the body. This leads to another thing that restoration is not—it is not about positional restoration. It is not primarily about returning people to involvement in ministry or even leadership. That is a secondary issue to be taken up when a believer is safe in their walk with Jesus again. I have seen the folly of the church so-called restoration process that hurriedly returned people caught in sin back to a position they held before. Talk about mega-disasters for all concerned.

So what is it? Restoration is restoring people in their walk with God, into a healthy relationship with the people they wounded and back into community with the body of Christ. It involves getting under their outer life facade to help them discover the causes of the spiritually unhealthy choices that led them to jump into the pit. The goal is to lead them to surrender these choices to God, not for forgiveness, but for eradication by His grace. Further, it is to guide those caught in sin to restore what they took from others in their selfish pursuit of self-centered choices.

Restoration is not merely a ‘make it all nice again’ endeavor. It is allowing people caught in sin time to discover alongside safe people why they chose that path of destruction. This is neither easy work nor is it tinged with the cheap mercy of tossing a blanket over their sin and ignoring it.

Steve Smith