"[Bear and Share the Burdens] Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." Galatians 6:1
There have been many, many times in my life where I have seen a person dragged through the mud because of something they did wrong. And most often, that mud-dragging was done by a brother or sister in Christ. And as I saw this verse today, I was reminded that we really need to be incredibly gentle with one another when we see behavior that needs to be corrected. And really? It's not that different with how I relate to my children.
There have been times where one of the kids has done something wrong, and I will get angry, and I will yell at them and scold them. And then I will stew on it for a little while, and continue to be angry, and maybe rub salt in the wound once or twice. Some time down the road, the bad behavior will be repeated, and the whole cycle just keeps going and going. And yet... you know, those moments where I choose to be gentle in my correction seems much more effective. When we sit down and discuss calmly and talk about alternatives for next time, the bad behavior seldom makes a repeat appearance. In addition, look how much better I responded. Because when I react with anger and yelling, I'm really not acting out of love or gentleness, and in fact am reacting to bad behavior with bad behavior. Two wrongs don't make a right.
I think one of the reasons so many people seem to skip the gentleness these days is because we have too many examples of a lack of gentleness in today's world. We watch a lot of television programs where people are messing up, and they get judged harshly for it almost immediately. That's just not the way God wants us to be. We are not to judge one another. When we see a brother or sister mess up, we are to gently take them aside and talk about it. We're to pray for them and counsel them, and most importantly, love them. As the verse says above, there are times where we are to back off and let someone else handle the situation, if the wrongdoing could cause a temptation to ourselves. 1 John 1:9 tells us exactly how God deals with sinful situations.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9
Look at that. It doesn't say that if we confess our sins to God, He becomes an all-powerful punisher, doling out punishment along the way. It says that God is faithful to his people. If we will take the step to go to Him and confess our wrongdoing, He will forgive us that trespass. Furthermore, He will take that forgiveness a step further and cleanse us from our unrighteousness- it will be like it never happened. And that's exactly how we need to respond to one another as well. If our brother or sister has sinned, and has taken the necessary steps before God to repent of those sins, then we also need to forgive and forget.
Our Father is a loving, kind, and gentle God, and we should be the exact same way. But even more than that, I want to take this one step further today and think about how we condemn ourselves so often. It's true, we do. We mess up one time in our life, and then we spend years and years remembering when we messed up and we don't forgive ourselves either. As long as we don't forgive ourselves, the devil will continue to bring that up and taunt us with our wrongdoing. We need to remember that we are children of a loving Father, and if we went to Him and confessed our sins and asked for forgiveness, that we truly are forgiven, and we need to leave what happened in the past in the past, and think on it no more. Dwelling on the past never did anyone any good, and God wants us to look ahead, to look towards our today and our future. Think about Lot's wife! If there was ever an example about the danger of looking back, she's it.
"But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt." Genesis 19:26
We are to be gentle. We are to be gentle with each other- always cloaking our words and our responses to one another in love. We also are to be gentle with ourselves. God loves us, and while He is our biggest cheerleader, cheering us on towards a life of holiness and righteousness, he also sees and understands when things go wrong. But look what He does when things go wrong! He cleanses us from that very unrighteousness and gently sets us back on our feet. We need to do the same for each other. While we don't have the power to forgive sins and cleanse the unrighteousness, we can know that God does, and if God can do that for our brother or sister, we can at least love them without ceasing.