“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)
How should a Christian person respond to somone in the church who is sinning? If you take this verse apart phrase by phrase, you will see that it is packed with instructions from the Lord on what we should do, and how we should do it:
— What person is he addressing? “Brethren …. you who are spiritual …”. Those who are NOT Christians or spiritual may well do things differently (condemn a person; gossip about them, etc.) but he tells us here what GOD’S people should do!
— What kind of transgression does this refer to? “ANY trespass.” It doesn’t matter what kind; “ANY”! “Even if anyone is CAUGHT” in it! (Like the adulterous woman in John 8)
— What are we to do? “RESTORE” such a one. Our goal is never to “church” someone (a slang term for throwing them out of the church fellowship) the spiritual Christian’s goal is always restoration. At the END of the process, there may indeed have to be discipline; but restoration is always the goal — just like God’s goal for US is always restoration! Let us seek to be as patient with others, as God is with us. Always with the goal of restoration.
— HOW/in what manner are we to do this? “In a spirit of gentleness.” Not in pride, harshness, or condemnation. We are not to be like the proverbial “bull in a china shop”; “speaking my mind”; but gently — like the way Paul said he treated the Thessalonians: “we proved to be gentle among you, like a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” (I Thess. 2:7)
— With what attitude are we to do this? Humility and introspection: “each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” As Puritan pastor Richard Baxter famously said of a sinner: “There but by the grace of God goes Richard Baxter.” We are to truly have the attitude that it IS only by the grace of God that I am not the one sinning in this situation. There is no room for pride in this process. Throughout the whole time, we should ask ourselves if there any sin in my OWN life that needs to be addressed; any root that needs to be dug out before it grows up and bears the fruit of sin in me as well.