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Sin, Restoration, and the Church

If not for the few who stood by me in love – without ever confusing their love for me with their acceptance or approval for my sin – I may not have found my way back to God.

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Our news media are full of racy, attention-grabbing headlines. We read of parents abusing their children, robberies, and senseless violence and killings. It can be overwhelming. It’s almost impossible to listen to the radio, watch TV, or scroll through Facebook without being assaulted by these sensational leading stories.

Even more disturbing is when the perpetrators of these crimes are the people we sit next to every Sunday; the same people we laugh with at the church potluck or work next to at the food pantry and clothing drive.

All of the sudden it becomes personal. All of the sudden we realize we can’t be certain we really know who people are behind closed doors. And all of the sudden we have to work a lot harder at that concept we speak of so eloquently when we give our testimony: grace.

Suddenly, grace – the unmerited assistance given us by God – rolls off the tongue much slower, is extended with much more apprehension. When I look in the face of a friend and realize they are involved in unspeakable sin, my hands find their way into my pockets. Shoulders turn cold and I look at the floor instead of into their eyes.

I have conversations with others centered around if they’re really sorry and whether or not they’re sorry they “did it” or sorry they were “caught.” I begin to rationalize whether or not I should reach out, talk with them, see where their heart is.

I am so weighed down by the shock and hurt and dismay of it all that I forget … I forget that we are all sinful.

Sure, our sin looks different, but it’s all sin.

Jesus went to the cross for us all.

While we may be willing to acknowledge the above sentiment, things get sticky when we discuss kinds of sin.

“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

It’s much easier to excuse myself and others of those sins I deem “forgivable” than it is to take Christ’s sacrifice for what it is: offered freely to all those willing to accept it.

Aside from the admonition to restore gently, there is no cut and dry method for dealing with others who are caught in sin. Each situation has its own set of circumstances. We need to seek wisdom from God and ask that He not only give us compassion, but that He also protects us from the propensity to finger wag while assuring ourselves that we would never do such a thing.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18

The moment I allow myself the notion that I am superior over a fallen brother or sister is the moment I put one foot on dangerous ground.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

On the heels of Paul’s directive about restoring someone caught in sin, he explains that we are to carry our brother’s burdens. I believe that carrying our brothers’ and sisters’ burdens means being there for them, praying for and with them, and offering them a path to restoration.

I’ve done many things in my life that I’m not proud of. There was a time when I separated myself from the church because of the condemnation I felt from my brothers and sisters in Christ. While disdain for my sin was appropriate and expected, relationships were severed by many because I’d lost my way. In addition to the guilt I felt over my actions, I felt the weight of others’ contempt.

If not for the few who stood by me in love – without ever confusing their love for me with their acceptance or approval for my sin – I may not have found my way back to God.

Sometimes it’s hard to determine the right course of action in a situation. Sometimes the dust needs to settle and fresh wounds need time to begin healing. In those times when we stand unsure how to proceed, we need to pray for direction and guidance. God will lead us where we need to be to glorify Him.

If you were to read my current-day bio, you would see that I am a loving and devoted wife, a doting mother, an active servant in my church as well as a leader of other women’s ministries. I am a contributor to blogs that are held in high esteem within the Christian community. Upon meeting me and reviewing my “credentials” you may be inclined to call me a believer strong in my faith, maybe even a sold-out Christian.

However, if you were to have met me even 10 years ago, you would have found a twice-divorced adulteress who was pregnant outside of marriage; a broken woman who had been saved since the age of 13, yet had veered horribly off God’s path. You would have come face to face with a prodigal child who was so wrapped up in her own desires that she had turned her back on her God, and at quite a price.

Thankfully, God saw me at that point in my life, but He also saw a decade ahead to where I am now, and He sees even farther into my future. He loves me. He forgives me. He saved me.

I pray that we will all seek wisdom and discernment when it comes to a brother or sister who has lost their way. I pray that we will be on our knees before God, who knows that person intimately and sees far ahead to what lies on their path, and can use us as an encouragement to that brother or sister … an encouragement that could possibly lead them toward restoration and right-standing with God.

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Mandy is wife to Joe and mom to 6 children ages 2 to 9 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and was pursuing a master's in elementary education when baby number 6 threw a monkey wrench in her carefully laid-out plans. So instead of teaching a classroom of children, God pressed on her heart to homeschool her oldest three, act as the coordinator for her local MOPS, and blog her heart out at Suburban Stereotype, Deliberate Women, and The Time-Warp Wife. Mandy feels compelled to live a life of faith in God with boldness and diligence and encourages other women to do the same. She and her family live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they juggle soccer schedules, teach Sunday school at their church, and try to squeeze every moment out of the day. Find Mandy on Facebook and Twitter.

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Sin, Restoration, and the Church

by Mandy Pagano time to read: 4 min