What To Do When A Christian Stumbles
Christians at best are people, and people at best are sinners. There is no such thing as a Christian without sin; this is the very reason Jesus said to a group indignant men one day, "let he who is without sin, cast the first stone" I believe that in the Church today we are stumbling over the issue of stumbling. In the contemporary Church of today it seems almost taboo to even speak of it. Yet, when a dear Christian brother or sisters stumbles, he or she may live life in isolation, an isolation forced upon them by other so-called Christians.
The Lord doesn't want the members of His body to live in isolation; believers are intended to function as a loving family who actively care for each other. In the Luke 6: 37 we read, ““Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” we are not to judge our fellow Christians it makes no difference who you are or who you think you are. There are some pastors who think that because they are pastors they have the god-given right to judge a person and even ostracize and reject a person who is a member of the Church he pastors without so much as seeking God’s direction in the matter simply because he’s the pastor.
However, the Church is more like a hospital than it is a social club, I say this because there are some churches that act as if they are a social club embodied with ranking members. But the church is the place where you come to be equipped for ministry (Eph. 4:12) and where you come to do ministry (Matt. 28:19). The church is not a social club, not a recreational center and not a place that caters to ANY one person at the sacrifice or even the harm of others. This is exactly why many people leave the Church never to return because they have been broken, mistreated, and rejected by people they fully expected would love them. But for some reason they just didn’t fit in and as time went by they just decided to stop coming and I mean stop coming to Church all together, how tragic? Now, do you really think that this is what God wants? Does God want us to close the door for some and open the door for others simply by gauging them according to our standards? Did God say for us to be selected as to who we will allow to join His Church? Did He say to mistreat anyone you see as being a misfit? Did He say that there should be no (what we call) hopeless sinners allowed? No!!!
What is the answer to this dilemma? How can we as a Church abide by what the Lord would have us do? I believe the answer is right here in these five verses of Scripture. There are at least seven things the Lord would have us do, when a Christian among us has stumbled or is about to stumble.
1. Let The Spiritual Among You Handle The Matter – V. 1
Well, how can tell who is spiritual as oppose to who is not spiritual? A spiritual person bears the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22-23). A spiritual person has denied him or herself; they are free from envy, jealousy, arrogance, and selfishness, and please excuse me for saying this but it is the truth—the above requirements leaves a whole lot of pastors and other leaders in the Church out. A person who is spiritual is less likely to be a stumbling block; he or she is less likely to have a critical spirit within them, and they are definitely not prone to gossip and slander.
In every Church there are spiritual Christians and there are carnal Christians. A carnal Christian is not fully equipped to handle things that are of a spiritual nature. Carnal Christians have not as of yet been delivered from their own sinful flesh and surely cannot restore someone else, effectively at least, they have to undergo a process known as ‘sanctification’ and so what Paul is saying is that only those who have been truly sanctified should endeavor to restore a fellow Christian who has been overtaken in a fall. The next thing the Lord would have us do when we find a brother or sister who has stumbled or is about to stumble is:
2. Approach Them In A Spirit Of Meekness – V. 1
What is a Spirit of meekness? It is humility; I would recommend any member of a pulpit search committee who is seeking a new pastor to add humility to their list of requirements. Please, at any cost try and stay away from someone who appears to have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder because this type of person can be very poisonous to your Church. This type of person wants to be worshipped and praised along with God, after the honeymoon is over you will wish that you could take back your vote. For sure, meekness is a Fruit of the Spirit that seems to be forgotten. It almost seems that people are actually seeking an arrogant pastor in order to give them an excuse to become arrogant themselves.
When approaching a Christian who has stumbled there has to meekness. There has to be an attitude (feeling) of humility (being humble) toward God and gentleness toward people. To be meek means we know God is in control. Those who are spiritual know that they can trust God, even when things do not go the way they would like. A person who has meekness in approaching a fallen brother or sister will not ignore them, criticize them, withdraw from them, shame them, censor them, dismiss them, isolate them, spread rumors about them, or slander them.
I know of a certain pastor who will make personal judgments about people who he feels does not fit into what he thinks HIS Church members should be, if they don’t show any loyalty to him he considers them worthless. He is threatened by other preachers who he thinks is out to steal his members or even his entire Church, and so as a result he totally ignores them hoping that they would just go away. This is the very opposite of meekness and he will have to answer for it in the long run. The next thing the Lord would have us do when we find a brother or sister who has stumbled or is about to stumble is:
3. Consider Yourself, You’re Not Perfect Either – V. 1
In other words, you are not immune from temptation yourself. It’s “All have sinned” and not, “Y’all have sinned.” I remember when a well-know TV preacher (you know him, “I have sinned” yea that one) accused another electronic preacher of sinning before the entire world, and the other preacher found evidence that his accuser was frequenting brothels himself, this made headline news and the ministries of both men was totally destroyed in the process. Walking to the pulpit with you chest out as proud as a peacock can sometimes cause you to walk away from the pulpit with your head drooping down like a buzzard. Because no one is perfect, but Jesus Christ Himself.
Every one of us are tempted with all kinds of sin, in fact in 1 Corinthians 10: 13, the Apostle Paul lets us know that each and every single temptation that attacks us is common to all of us and not a select few. The next thing the Lord would have us do when we find a brother or sister who has stumbled or is about to stumble is:
4. Bear One Another’s Burden – V. 2
This seems to be one of the most overlooked verses of Scripture these days. In a world where “I must be first” is the order of the day. In a world where the words, “That’s his problem” is so often uttered even by Christians. When we bear one another’s burden it is not a process of selection, in other words, we shouldn’t pick and choose whose burdens we should bear. Pastors, it doesn’t mean to only bear the members who are most loyal to you or gives the most during offering time. We are to bear the burden of each and every Church member.
Why should we bear one another’s burden? Because in God’s Church we are all tied together, “I can’t be what I ought to be unless you are what you ought to be, and you can’t be what you ought to be unless I am what I ought to be” –Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But more so than anything else it is what God wants. The next thing the Lord would have us do when we find a brother or sister who has stumbled or is about to stumble is:
5. Admit Your Nothingness – V. 3
Part of what is known as “A Puritan’s Prayer” says this, “Keep me from high thoughts of myself or my work, for I am nothing but sin and weakness. In me no good dwells, and my best works are tainted with
sin. Humble me to the dust before You. Root and tear out the poisonous weed of pride, and show me my utter nothingness. Keep me sensible of my sinnership. Sink me deeper into penitence and
self-abhorrence.” This is the total opposite of what many Christians think and feel today. They shutter to think of themselves in the sense of being nothing. But without God this is exactly what we are…nothing.
One reason fallen Christians are locked out of fellowship is because they are looked upon as being unfit, less capable, weaker, less spiritual, too tarnished, and insufficient. I had a classmate from my seminary class who was potentially a great preacher. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and could be have become a Greek scholar, however, he got caught up into using drugs. His pastor instead of helping him decided to completely disowned him and made sure that no other pastors within the city accept him either. My classmate died brokenhearted, he died looking for acceptance and help with his problem. But because his pastor was very influential in the Church community no one wanted to touch him. Now I ask you, if this what God wants?
You see, the problem here was this pastor along with the other pastors who rejected him failed to see their own nothingness and considered him to be nothing. They were all modern day Pharisee sitting upon their lofty perches, they were his judge and his jury and they found him guilty and unworthy of their precious attention. The pastor has since died himself, and I wonder what will he say to the Lord when his time comes to stand before Him? By far, this attitude is contrary to the Spirit of God. All men are sinners whether they know it or not. Even believers, after they are saved, are sinners and this fact is very often forgotten in our Churches today.
The Church is absolutely no place for feeling superior or spiritually better than others. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12: 7, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” why the thorn? To keep him ever mindful that he is no better than the other man.
And to remind him without a doubt that without God he is absolutely nothing. Oh how I wish that some of our Church leaders would come to this truth before it is everlasting too late. The next thing the Lord would have us do when we find a brother or sister who has stumbled or is about to stumble is:
6. Prove Your Own Work – V. 4
That’s right, examine your own work and conduct. The word ‘work’ speaks more of your conduct and attitude than it does your employment. Matthew says it like this, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” –Matthew 7: 3 – 5, I know that these are fighting words but it’s in the book.
What Matthew is saying here is that when the criticizer fails to examine his own self he is in effect inconsistent in his judgments of others, his judgment of someone else is really not worth a hill of beans. It is far too often that we focus on the failures and alleged indiscretions of others. We rely on hearsay thereby making us become false witnesses, we continue to gossip, criticize, and revel forever in the bad news about someone else. When we judge and criticize, we are actually revealing a very serious flaw within our selves and not so much the target of our judgment and criticism. When you see a scar on someone, examine yourself because you may have a much larger scar. And finally, the next thing the Lord would have us do when we find a brother or sister who has stumbled or is about to stumble is:
7. Realize Your Own Duty and Responsibility – V. 5
Here it is, you are directly responsible to the Lord for your own behavior. Paul said to the Church of Galatia that if there is someone among their congregation is overtaken in a fault they need to restore and not ignore (emphasis mine). This is not an option; it has absolutely nothing to do with how much you may dislike this person. It has nothing to do with whether or not you may feel that this person is somehow a threat to your position or social standing in the Church.
The only One who is capable of judging will judge you for what you do or not do. In other words, you are responsible for dealing with your own faults and failures (and you do have them) as oppose to those around you who also have their faults and failures. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he (not someone else) hath done, whether it be good or bad. –2 Corinthians 5: 10
If Michael Jackson ever sung a song with spiritual overtones it was, “Man in the Mirror” he said, “I’m looking at the man in the mirror and I’m asking him to change his ways.” Look at the man or the woman in the mirror, before you take a look at others. I truly believe that God placed us on this earth to help one another. His intentions are for us to build each other up rather than tear each other down. Notice the words, “restore such an one…” not tear down, reject, and ignore such an one. A man was watching a few men working very hard on a house in his neighborhood and so he approached the supervisor and asked him if he would consider building an addition to his home.
The supervisor answered, “Mister, you have us all wrong we are a wreaking crew. Our job is to tear down houses not to build them up” and then the supervisor asked him, “You mean you couldn’t tell the difference?” The man answered, “No, actually I couldn’t and I guess if I had waited long enough I would have seen what you’re all about after there was nothing left” there ought not be any wreaking crews in the house of God because that’s not what we all about, we are about building up and not tearing down, if we keep tearing each other down I am afraid there will be nothing left. Amen.