Restoration in a Transformational Community 2: You Can’t Restore Those You Don’t Value
I am guiding several leaders who are collectively dealing with a deeply tragic family situation. Unfaithfulness, addiction, inner family conflict and extended family abandonment, coupled with long standing wandering from God by the key players are intermingled in this dizzying spectrum of issues. More than one family member needs to be restored. For many of the believers entering into this morass, it is the first time they have ever participated in restoration.
The first question with which you have to grapple is the one of value. “How much value do these broken people have for me?” I know our official doctrine informs us that they all are precious in God’s sight, that they matter to Him so much that He gave His Son’s life in exchange for them. But how valuable are they to you? You have to get real with yourself to even get to the starting gate of wanting to restore them when they jump into the pit.
Stop and think about this. Who in your church would you want to restore if they messed up?
- A beloved pastor who has invested in you and others?
- A key leader whose visibility to and influence over the congregation has made a spiritual difference?
- A faithful attender who would be missed if he or she was allowed to go on sinning?
- An indifferent sibling in the faith?
- An aggressively messed up person whose participation in the church seems like an intrusion?
If some of the people I listed are of unequal value to you, accept that you have a skewed view of the body of Christ. Also accept that your ability to be used by God to restore someone caught in sin will be compromised. Truthfully, to be able to pursue restoration for anyone, you have to want to restore them all, even the ones that constitute the greater challenge. Otherwise you will quit way too early on those who need you to hang in there the most. This is what Paul means by characterizing restorers as living by the Spirit.
The messy lives of those I mentioned are going to take time. It will involve 10-12 believers investing their precious time weekly for the unforeseeable future. There is no guarantee that those they seek to restore will humble themselves to God and be made whole. They are doing this because they value the wandering ones as Jesus does.
You will never come to value people caught in sin equally until you ask the Father to change you. It is one thing to say that you belong to the family of God. It is another—a costly another— thing to treat all the people in your congregation like family. You have to ask God to take away your indifference, your fear of involvement, your inattentiveness toward doing good to those who belong to the family of believers.
As Paul says, we get to reap a harvest if we do not give up doing good (Galatians 6:9). The benefits I have already received from restored family members—whose names meant nothing to anyone but the Father—far outweighs the effort put in when they were at their worst. Seeing a person living in freedom and following hard after the Father again is worth every minute I gave. And they, knowing the destruction they were flirting with, have never wandered again. This is why I teach others how to restore those caught in sin.