CONSIDER THIS AS A CASE STUDY
There it was, plastered on the front page of our local newspaper. A picture of a girl from Bible study on the county newspaper. No doubt everyone in our class had seen it. She had been arrested for something too lewd to even describe. Unfortunately for us all, the story detailed every aspect of her night of sin. The details leading to her arrest were so unbelievable that NO ONE saw this coming. How could a sweet, seemingly innocent young girl in Bible study do such things??? Well, unfortunately, this happens, and if not for the grace of God, it could happen to any of us given the right (or wrong) set of circumstances.
After regaining my wits from having my mind blown, I began to focus on this girl that I will call Hilary. I was concerned that the humiliation alone would be enough to keep her away from Bible study, so I decided to reach out to her. I did not want Satan to win this war just because he had won a recent battle.
When I called Hilary, my first thought was to simply offer to have prayer with her, as there was no getting around the fact that we both knew why I was calling. She explained how it all happened after consuming too much alcohol with old friends, though I did not inquire. I just listened for as long as she wanted to talk. She did not think she could return to Bible study and face her friends for her private soiree made public was almost too much for anyone to overcome. So, I decided to help map out a plan for her restoration to our Bible study group.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Galatians 6:1 NIV
I suggested that if she wanted to miss a night or two, which is what she really wanted to do, some time may help calm everyone down. In the meantime, I recommended she have a private conversation with our Bible study leader about what had happened.
Upon her return, we planned for the facilitator to simply say,
“Hilary recognizes that she has sinned against God and that her actions may have offended many of you. Hilary and I have spent some time together in prayer, and I know she is truly repentant. She has asked God for His forgiveness and we are confident that He has forgiven her. Hilary also desires our forgiveness and I believe it is right and scriptural to forgive her. We love her and desire for her to be restored in our Bible study fellowship. Before we start Bible study, let’s have prayer for Hilary. Let us also pray for our group’s unity and a Spirit of forgiveness to be felt here tonight.”
It was to be that simple. Hilary would not have to say anything, as our Bible study facilitator would be her advocate. This is something that if God forbid, I ever do such a thing, I would feel comfortable doing in a small group or even before my church with my pastor’s help.
I wish I could say that everything played out just like we had planned, but when it got to the day of, Hilary decided to forego the talk and prayer before the group. She had decided that God had forgiven her, which I am sure He had, and that that was enough. She returned to Bible study a couple of weeks later with no mention of what she had been through. She participated in the discussions and confidently added input as if nothing ever happened.
How do you think that went?
On the surface everything appeared fine, but that was not the case behind the scenes. No one else knew about the discussions Hilary had had with the Bible study leader or myself. They did not know that Hilary had declined the opportunity to resolve this matter with the group. And because she left this key part of public repentance and request for restoration out, it appeared to the others that Hilary was not repentant.
Because Hilary had not addressed the group, the group did not know what to think. One of my closest Bible study friends, Chloe, would cringe every time Hilary would share something at Bible study. She did not want to sit with Hilary or even carry on small conversations with her. Chloe was completely repulsed by Hilary now. And I could tell that Chloe was not the only one who felt this way.
So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Luke 17:3 NIV
WHY RESTORATION IS IMPORTANT
Although Christians are to be forgiving, there is a process for reconciliation that births the promise of restoration, and it all begins with repentance. We must understand that once we become a Christian we also become part of a body. When one member hurts it affects the rest of the body. When one person is sin-sick, it also affects the whole body. Does this mean that our personal life is subject to others in the body of Christ? To some degree, yes, especially when our private sins are made public. Publicized sins do bring a reproach against the body of Christ. This has always been where the church of the living God has suffered PR problems – when parts of the body of Christ fail publicly without any public repentance.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21 NIV
so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:5 NIV
This is why a restoration recovery plan is essential for the body. It reunites us as one body under Christ. Without it, we look fragmented and disconnected from God, and that should not be.
Had Hilary went ahead with the restoration plan, Chloe and the others could have moved beyond it. Without it, part of the body of Christ was suffering needlessly and less effective because of the disunity. Don’t you know that Hilary felt the coolness from the other women in the group? And believe me she felt it for months afterward, and eventually left the group. All of this could have been avoided and repaired from a restoration plan.
[tweetthis]There is a process for reconciliation that births the promise of restoration, and it all begins with repentance. [/tweetthis]
THE WONDER OF RESTORATION
Restoration is that important. Do you fault Chloe and the other women of the Bible study group? Had Hilary followed through with the restoration recovery plan, and the other women had continued to react cool toward her, they they would have been at fault.
This is the wonder of restoration. When we ask for it, after true repentance, then it is the body’s obligation to also forgive and reunite wholly. When the body does not accept restoration from a fallen, but repentant believer, then the onus of the problem shifts to them and the repentant believer stands whole in God’s eyes.
Does this mean that we must get up before our church or small group and detail our failings? Certainly not. Although, I do believe that the fallen Christian should have some heartfelt conversations with the church staff or ministry leader in such cases, revealing they have repented. And after that, some type of public display of repentance should be made in order for the body to heal properly. It may be something scripted or the person simply going to the altar for prayer during the altar call time.
If you go back to the planned restoration script for Hilary by the Bible study facilitator, you will recall that there was no sharing of details. The only recognition of sin would have been in general with more emphasis placed on the expectation of forgiveness and restoration. It’s no one’s business what sins beset us, but true repentance and request for restoration is when our sins are made public.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Can we resolve to humble ourselves to walk from shame to grace within the body of Christ?
Weigh in! How would you handle such a situation? Do you agree or disagree with recovery plans? What about the one I proposed?
” And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” Hebrews 10:24
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