The responsibility and the purpose of our personal ministry
Your neighbor shares with you how her marriage is crumbling. A close friend asks you for a loan due to gambling debts. A constant battle with an non-compliant child results in daily yelling sessions. While we listen with sympathetic ears, we are often hesitant to offer counsel. “Who am I to counsel and teach other people? What gives me the right to help someone else get his or her act together when mine’s not?” The Apostle Paul’s teaching helps us see the responsibility and the purpose of our personal ministry.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Galatians 6:1).
“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 24-26).
What does it mean to restore a sinner gently and to “gently instruct?” Two aspects of restoring and teaching come to mind. First, there is the manner, and secondly, there is the message. Let’s look at these aspects in that order.
Regarding the manner, Paul instructs us Christians to NOT restore and instruct harshly or rudely. It is not our place to belittle the person struggling. We are not to be resentful of the emotional investment. This means that we have to fight the tendency to throw up our hands in exasperation saying, “I can’t believe they’ve done it again!! What’s their problem!?!? They made their bed, now they’ve got to sleep in it.” We are not to quarrel or be argumentative either.
Instead our manner is to be kind, humble and patient. This means instead of arguing or persuading from a position of moral superiority, we are to restore and instruct from a position of weakness and understanding. After all, who of us possesses the “moral high ground” from which to teach others? We have “all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We all struggle and will continue to struggle. Our authority and strength comes not in our own self-morality but the imputed righteousness of Christ.
This leads us to the message. The goal of restoring and instructing fellow strugglers is, as Paul says, “that God will grant them repentance leading them to … truth.” The message that we take to our own hearts first and then to the hearts of others is the Gospel truth. Jesus’ kindness opens our hearts to receiving the hard news about ourselves, leads us to repentance, and enables us to believe the truth that He came to die for us sinners.
Both the manner and the message are vitally important and inextricably linked. Paul tells us that both are necessary in restoring and instructing each other. You see, the message of truth can be lost in our manner. If we are harsh or judgmental, we can’t effectively communicate the truth. Quarrelling and bickering obscure the true message. Our manner can also hide the truth. In the name of peace-keeping and kindness, we can be non-confrontational and fail to teach the truth. That’s why Paul says that we should “speak the truth in love so that we will in all things grow up” (Ephesians 4:15). Gospel-sharing is both the manner and the message.
The story of Walnut Creek is the story of the Gospel-message and the Gospel-manner. We have been and will be faithfully committed to helping each other “grow in the grace [manner] and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ [message].”
God has positioned us all around folks to gently restore and gently instruct. To whom is God calling you to take the Gospel-message adorned in the Gospel-manner? Who are we to tell others? We are adopted heirs of Christ who bestowed all of his authority upon us to go to the nations… Therefore go.