Pursuing Restoration

18 Oct

When we go to confront someone else, we often spend a great deal of time and effort in challenging them to repent.

Unfortunately, we don’t often spend nearly as much time or effort in helping them after they do repent. What’s worse, this seems to be more true the bigger the situation gets. The more complicated the situation, the less effort we put into follow up work. What is up with that?

It is not because it is unimportant. In fact, Paul specifically talks about the danger of not proactively pursuing a person who has been confronted and who has repented. 2 Corinthians 2:5ff. Paul writes, “For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him…so that we may not be outwitted by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”

Wow. There is a lot stuffed into that passage. Here Paul was caused by pain by an individual, that person had been punished, had repented, and the church seems to still be somewhat cold towards him. Paul exhorts them to forgive and what? comfort him. Why? Because Paul knows what can happen if they don’t. That person could be overwhelmed by sorrow. He doesn’t say, well that guy hurt me so who cares if he hurts a bit. He doesn’t say, well that guy should be a big enough boy to know that he’s forgiven. Instead he says to the church that the church has a responsibility to that person after he has repented. In fact, Paul is so concerned about this that he actually begs the church to reaffirm their love for him. Why? You can go back and read how the passage ends for yourself. Let’s just say that it’s because Paul knows that not doing so does damage to people and the church.

We might think that it does great damage to the church when sin is not confronted. Yes. No question about it. When we don’t make the effort to confront someone who is stuck in sin, we are doing damage to the church. But it also does great damage to the church when we don’t make the effort to comfort, express love and help a person after they have repented.

Perhaps we can even put it down as a rule.

The greater the punishment, the more important that reaffirmation of love is. The harder you had to work at the confrontation process, the harder you should work at the restoration process. And let’s make this very clear. You know whose responsibility it is to work at this? The ones who have dealt the punishment out!

Hear me now.

If you or I feel the responsibility to confront someone, we must feel the exact same level of responsibility to express love and to help someone after we have confronted them.

If we don’t, then we shouldn’t be surprised if people wonder what motivated us to confront the person in the first place.

How do we do all this though? What does it look like to pursue restoration?

I am not sure this is going to be specific enough for you, but I am wary of simply giving a list because what I am talking about here is not a coldly follow the steps kind of process. More important than the letter of the law here is the spirit. If you are simply interested in a list to check off, I am sorry but you are sort of missing the point. This whole follow up process has to start with a heart that actually wants the other person’s best. I mean look at Paul in Corinthians. I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. This is a man who cared deeply about other people. After you have confronted someone and they have repented, you need to sit down and cry out to God, please help me feel deeply for this person, help me want them to succeed, help me to long for them to be fully restored, help me to want to see them use their gifts for the glory of God, help me to want their joy so much that I would actually beg other people to express love to them.

You want a step to follow? O.k. I give in. Here’s step number one. Philippians 2:3 and 4. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” You have confronted the person. They have repented. Now why don’t you just sit down and think for a while about their interests. What would be good for them? What would you need or what might other people need if they were in that situation? Think about what you know about the person. You felt like you knew them enough to confront them, so hopefully you know the way they work a bit. Think then about what they might be feeling now and what might be some of the struggles they are experiencing and then actively find ways to help encourage and comfort and support them as they work through that. Want their good more than you want your own. What would it be like to be them? What would most people need in their situation? How can I help them achieve that?

Since we are on a roll, here’s step number two. Actively affirm your love for them. Not to other people so much, though I am sure that is fine, but to them personally. The wider you have exposed their sins, the louder you should shout your care for them. Put it down in writing. Call them up and tell them on the telephone. Invite them over for a meal. Take them out to do something they enjoy. Brag on them in front of other people. Work hard at really caring about them as people. Remind them that God has gifted them. Encourage them that though they may not be able to use their gifts in the same way as before, you really want them to use their gifts and that you are working hard at thinking of appropriate ways for them to be able to use their gifts. Thank them for the ways in which they have encouraged you.

Maybe step number three? Actually work at coming up with a solution that goes beyond pretend like nothing ever happened. If you are one of those detail oriented guys that comes up with a plan for everything else, come up with a plan for this. Put some actual action steps towards restoration down on paper. What are you going to do to help the person grow? What are you going to do to make sure the person feels loved? What are you going to do to help the person use his gifts? Who is responsible for taking these steps? When are you going to take action? Exactly how?

It is hard to confront someone, no question about it. But what are we going to do after we have confronted them? If we love them, confrontation is, it has to be about something bigger than simply getting the person off our back. It has to be about their long term good for the glory of God and if you feel the need to confront them for that purpose, then you are going to feel the need to help them after they have repented.

And if you don’t, do you mind if ask you, exactly why were you confronting them in the first place?


2 Responses to “Pursuing Restoration”

  1. applesofgold2511 October 19, 2011 at 5:28 am #

    Great article Josh!
    Wish more people in church would apply this.

  2. Joe Lima October 19, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Sadly, most christians only realise the significance of what you have written here after they have been on the “wrong” end of a Matthew 18 process and then left to die on their own. Legalism will happily carry out the steps of condemnation but will seldom carry out the steps of restoration. I dare say that this sad state of affairs is endemic to the “well taught” churches of our world. Too much cerebral input and too little unfeigned love output. Yep it is that “CEREBRAL” issue that I so often mention rearing its ugly head again. Maybe I should start a blog called “The cerebral christian disconnect”.

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