I am writing this morning from my cousin’s kitchen in Arkansas, listening to the coffee brew. I’m down here visiting family and buying half a cow with my mom and dad. It’s been ages since I’ve had good, fresh beef in my freezer, so this will be very nice. And the best part about it is that I got to catch up with my cousins that I haven’t seen in five years. I’m a dreadful cousin.
It’s crazy to me to see the kids I played with as a child with kids of their own. Considering how many My Little Ponies I got to hold and how many special tricks I got to bear witness to, I think I have been accepted into the category of playmate. I think everyone is going to come up and visit me soon, which will be a riot. I can’t wait to take my littlest cousins to the zoo . . . . but then, I can’t wait to go to the zoo again myself. =)
In any case, the verse today kind of made me smile. It’s one of those verses that Christians can really harp on, but a word in it really made me stop today.
1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer[a] is overcome by some sin, you who are godly[b] should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.
How many times does this happen? Where a believer sees another believer struggling with some sin and they take it on themselves to set that person straight? In my experience, people usually screw this up totally. They either ignore the problem entireliy or they throw themselves at it so violently, desperate to correct it, that they make the situation worse. The other possibility is that you who are trying to correct the others’ problem will end up falling into the same sin you’re trying to erase.
The big problem with all of these is us. We think that we can do something to convince somebody else to stop sinning. Well, guess what, folks? You can’t. The only person who can decide to stop sinning is the person who is sinning. They have to realize in themselves that what they’re doing is wrong and that it’s not helping them; then, they will be ready to stop.
The only thing you can do in the mean time is love them and pray for them and be there for them when they need you.
You also need to be careful that you don’t rationalize away your situation and say that you need to get on the other persons’ level to relate to them better. Now, there is a certain amount of relational positioning you need to do. Like if you’re ministering to a homeless person, you shouldn’t wear your best clothing and fancy jewelry. What would that say to them? Or if you’re ministering among people in Africa, you shouldn’t cling to your own culture and ignore theirs. However, you shouldn’t bend the truth of Scripture to serve “your ministry.”
I’m going to give an example and maybe some of you will disagree with me on this, but I want to share my thoughts about this. Again, I’m not saying I’ve got this figured out, but I’m pretty sure that I understand at least a little of it.
I’m writing a book. I know that’s no surprise to some of you since I write every day all day. But this book has taken up most of the last ten years of my life. I could have gotten it done sooner if little things like school and work hadn’t gotten in the way, but it very rapidly is approaching completion. This book isn’t for Christians; it’s a book about a Christian living among people who have made other choices. And personally I was tired of Christian fluff. I wanted bad guys who were really bad. I wanted good guys who weren’t perfect. I wanted a story that demonstrated how a Christian’s life isn’t perfect and how they make the same mistakes nonbelievers do. So the language in this book is rough. And the situations in this book are very far beyond what a Christian should be involved with in their lives. But I didn’t write this book for Christians. This book is directed to people outside the church — outside the faith; it’s purpose is to shed some light on what it’s like to be a Christian — and what it’s like to be a religious Christian who realizes how wrong she’s been.
Now, because I’m writing this book with bad language in it, does that give me the excuse to use bad language all the time? Does that give me the excuse to jump into situations that would compromise my witness. No. Absolutely not. I follow Christ so my life must never compromise what I believe, even if the people I minister to don’t live by the truth.
Granted, this example is for ministering to nonbelievers. Ministering to Christians is much much harder. Because Christians always think they’re right.
What we have to remember, though, is “there but for the grace of God go I.” There is no sin a Christian can fall into that can’t tempt another Christian so approaching a situation like what is mentioned in Galatians 6:1 with pride, saying to yourself that you’d never do something so foolish or you can’t be tempted by that, is stupid. But does that mean we shouldn’t help each other? Or does that mean we shouldn’t accept help from other believers?
We’re here to help each other, to keep each other accountable, to offer a hand up back onto the path where God can bless us both. Refusing help when you need it is foolish, just like refusing to help someone who needs it is selfish. We are all a part of the Body of Christ, and — forgive me a silly analogy — but if the foot gets a splinter in it, don’t the fingers need to pull it out?