Galatians 6:1-2, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently… Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” It becomes more and more clear to me that what God asks of His children is a reflection of what is in His own heart. He does not ask us to do anything that He Himself is not doing. Therefore if we are asked to be instrumental in the restoration of those who are caught in sin, obviously our God is Himself a God of restoration, keenly interested in seeing each of His children lifted up when they have fallen, cheered when they have been saddened, encouraged when they have lost heart.
Our God is the perfect Creator. From the time His Spirit moved and His voice spoke and His hand formed the world and all that is therein, His work has been “very good” (Genesis 1:31), a reflection of His own perfection. However, there is also a force called entropy at work in the natural creation. Individual objects and entire systems are inclined to move from a more orderly state to a less orderly one. When left to themselves, things that are hot tend to cool off; things that are traveling fast tend to slow down. Flesh eventually corrupts and breaks down, returning to the dust from which it was taken. There is also a tendency toward spiritual entropy that can be observed at times; the initial zeal and joy that accompanies a relationship with God seems to wane, and flesh tends to return to its old familiar ways of thinking, doing, and being.
However, throughout Scripture and in our own present experience, we see the grace of God working to reverse the trend of the flesh. In Luke 4:18-19, when our Lord Jesus stood to read in Nazareth’s synagogue, He proclaimed His mission, “to preach good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Those whose lives had taken a wrong direction could find restoration in His presence and through His ministry. Instead of being castoffs on humanity’s trash heap, their lives could be redeemed and made acceptable again. Often an object that has been restored by a master craftsman can actually have greater value than it did when it was brand new. And so it is when our Lord works by His grace and power in the lives of His children.
Just as sin entered the picture early in mankind’s experience, so sin enters our lives, exerting its corrupting and defiling influence. The innocence and purity of childhood doesn’t last very long, replaced by guilt and shame. Honest-hearted people cannot be comfortable with the consequences of sin, and cry out desperately for some way to be clean again, to be what God intended for them to be when He created them in His own likeness. How we thank God for the way that we have found in Jesus, not only for the guilt of sin to be taken away, but for His righteousness and perfection to be credited to us as we receive faith in Him and surrender our lives to His lordship and control.
The Lord Jesus is able to restore our souls so perfectly because He is perfectly spiritual. Sometimes we might wrongly define what it means to be spiritual. It does not necessarily mean to act religious, as some might think of religion, but rather to be filled with the work and fruit of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord was not spiritual because of the way He preached and prayed, but because of the way He lived and loved. When love, joy, and peace are at work in any life, a person doesn’t necessarily need to say a prayer, quote a verse, or preach a sermon in order to have a restoring effect on those around them. He could bring God’s power near by His very presence as He reached out in love to needy souls.
The restoration that Christ effects is a restoration of gentleness and meekness. Human nature loves to be right and to have the last word; often well-intentioned individuals, trying to help another only in the power of human reasoning, end up doing more harm than good. They are perceived as arrogant, holier-than-thou know-it-alls, to which a natural reaction is one of resistance and resentment. The Lord Jesus was always right, and yet it was the rightness of His spirit and attitude toward the individuals He touched that was of greater influence than the rightness of His words and teachings. His refusal to condemn guilty sinners, though He Himself was without sin, drew them to Him in a way the religious authorities had never achieved and could not understand. The only ones who heard words of condemnation from His lips were those who persisted in the hypocrisy of self-righteousness and self-congratulation.
What is the law of Christ that we fulfill as we reach out to others who need restoration? Psalm 19:7, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.” Christ is not known primarily as a lawgiver, but rather a law-liver. His law was not a rigid moral code engraved on tables of stone, but rather a fervent love for perishing souls that was overriding every fleshly consideration, dictating a life of selflessness and service. The way He lived in love, the spirit of His relationship with others, looking always for needy people whose burdens He could bear, is a higher law than any other. Indeed, if His law were universally practised, there would be no need for any of the multitude of laws that have been formulated to regulate human behavior, since His law produces a change in the depths of the soul, a new nature and character that do not need exterior regulation.
II Kings 4:34 gives a picture of life and health being restored, an apt parallel for the restoration of spiritual health also: “He got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm.” While the heart is not mentioned, in our spiritual restoration, it is the heart-to-heart contact that affects us so deeply. God covers us with Himself, affecting us His own nature and character, and sharing with us, in our deadness, the life that is in Him.
Years ago, a mountaineer who had climbed Mount Everest visited our school. He told of narrow escapes he and his team had had, and how some nearly died of exposure on the mountain. When one person was nearly frozen to death, another got into the sleeping bag with him and, much like the Old Testament prophet, warmed the man with his own body until he was out of danger. The pervasive coldness of the world around can subtly sap our life force. Surrounded by spiritual apathy, it could seem easy to slow down, sit down, fall asleep, and die. In fact, those who are dying of cold are often so dulled in their senses that they are totally unaware of the danger of their situation, and actually resist the attempts of those who would try to stir them to life again. Our Lord, however, continues to touch our heart with His heart, exposing us to all that He is and reviving us again to walk in abundance of life with Him.
At a recent graduation ceremony, a speaker gave some advice I will long remember, “Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts.” The opposite of recklessness is carefulness. It’s easy to forget at times that our actions and attitudes are having a direct effect on others for better or for worse. Just as God has affected our heart in such a positive way, committing Himself to us in love and constant care, so we need to commit ourselves from our heart to share His love and power with others. In this way, we can share the joy of participating in His work of restoration and, by His grace, thus fulfill the law of Christ.