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Restoring The Fallen

by Bob Russell

(From www.bobrussell.org)

Rumors were flying about a friend of mine.  Even though he was married, with children, he seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time with a college-age girl.  She had some issues and he evidently wanted to help her.  But she was also fairly attractive and the time he spent talking to her after church created suspicion.  People weren’t necessarily gossiping about him but they were, “concerned.”  Some had seen him at her softball games and, “It just didn’t look right.”

Finally, I’d heard enough.  Galatians 6:1 reads: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”  I wasn’t sure I qualified as, “spiritual” but I was his preacher as well as his friend and since no one else was approaching him I decided to do so.  Matthew 18:15 instructs us to go by ourselves on the first visit so I arranged to visit with him for a few minutes after an evening service.

As we began to talk my mouth was dry and I fought to keep my voice from trembling.  I knew there was the possibility that he could get angry and storm out or remind me of my own failures.  But I cleared my throat and said, “I think you need to know that there is some discussion circulating about the fact that you seem to be hanging around (her name) a lot.  I’m concerned that it’s hurting your Christian testimony and I thought as your friend you needed to be aware of it.”

His response was much better than I expected.  “Oh my!  I never thought that it could be seen that way.  I am just concerned about the struggles she’s facing at home and felt she needed some encouragement.  Goodness!  I’ll sure back off.  I’m sorry.”

From that point on, his relationship with that young woman cooled and the talk (gossip) subsided.  That was thirty years ago and I’m happy to report that my friend and his wife are still happily married and enjoying their grandchildren.  The college age girl now has a Godly family and positive witness as well.

Looking back, I wonder what would have happened if I had said nothing?  At the very least he would have continued to damage his witness.  Perhaps an unhealthy relationship was on the verge of developing and may have ended in a disastrous affair, a broken marriage, and a devastated family.  I don’t know but I wonder.

I wonder how many times we could help to bear one another’s burden of temptation or poor judgment and we don’t do it because we are afraid or erroneously conclude that it’s none of our business.  As a result good people stumble and fall while we cluck our tongues in disapproval.

Christians shouldn’t be spying on one another or nitpicking every minor mistake.  But we should be perceptive enough and caring enough to confront when we see someone being “caught in some sin.”  Two key phrases should guide any such confrontation: “restore gently” and “watch yourself.”  There’s no room for abrasive accusations or self-righteous attitudes.

Not all confrontations end positively.  But numerous spiritual flameouts could be averted if God’s people held each other accountable and spoke the truth in love.


Bob Russell is retired minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY. 


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Philippians 4:13