Brethren, if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also. Galatians 6:1 Amplified
The word 'restore' in Galatians 6 has a really encouraging meaning in the Greek. According to Vine's Expository Dictionary, the word is 'katartizo' and means
"to mend, to furnish completely...metaphorically, of the 'restoration,' by those who are spiritual, of one overtaken in a trespass, such a one being as a dislocated member of the spiritual body. The tense is the continuous present, suggesting the necessity for patience and perseverance in the process."
What a wonderful reality if we were all living in the 'continuous present' patiently persevering in our commitment to seeing one who is struggling restored completely to full health and function, that no joint in the body would be out of place, even for a moment.
The question becomes how do we do that?
One method involves establishing accountability groups or having an accountability partner. This is particularly popular with men. The idea is that I get someone or a couple of someone's to help me address my besetting sin. We meet on a regular schedule and then I give an account of how I am doing. I can either declare 'victory', i.e. I haven't given place to my weakness, or I confess my 'failure'. Depending upon my 'accounting,' my partners will adjust their counsel to try and meet the need.
One of the unfortunate tendencies of the accountability model is the emphasis on "setting him right" without the humility and gentleness that Paul describes in Galatians. It is easy, especially with men, for us to have a superior attitude toward the weaker one, and lord it over them -- all the while professing we have their best interest at heart.
Another problem is that in this model I am only reporting on my past behavior. The issue is: have I or haven't I given place to my weakness to this point in time? I am not really being transparent about my true spiritual condition. To extend the 'dislocated joint' analogy of Vine, I can be spiritually dislocated but by exerting will power and discipline I can give a positive report of my ability to manage my sin. Accountability invariably leads to pride or shame and I want to say that the moments of pride will be far less frequent than the moments of failure and shame.
The fact is that there is a process that takes place at the moment of our temptation. That temptation has been triggered by something in my life that I struggle with. If I do not immediately acknowledge that temptation and bring it into the light, sin takes hold in my life. And then begins a downward spiral that will ultimately result in me acting out. While we don't have time to examine that downward spiral in detail, suffice it to say that it is a journey into increasing darkness, isolation, and alienation from those who care for me.
By hiding what is going on in me, I am in essence planning for the moment when I will act out. It is not an 'if' at that point, it is definitely a 'when'! There is no question that there is a reward associated with giving place to my sin -- it is called 'the pleasures of sin' for a reason -- and the longer I postpone acting out the more powerful the payoff will be. But that pleasure comes at a terrible price for the result of sin in my life is always death!
The shortcoming of accountability is that I never give account for what I am planning -- only what I have done. So sin has the opportunity to do its devastating work and those who care for me, and want to be restorers of my soul, have no clue what is going on.
Wouldn't it be better if we were 'protected' from what will cause such devastation and loss in our lives and relationships?
In other words, what if instead of 'accounting' for my behavior, I was willing to confess what I was 'planning'? What if I had relationships of trust that were so secure that I could acknowledge the moment that I was tempted and have those who love me come alongside and bring that issue directly into the light so that the power of sin could be broken? (Because the power of sin is always broken in the light!) Wouldn't that be far more effective in restoring each other to full health and vitality than accountability?
One of the commitments I have made recently is to resist being in accountability relationships. I want instead to be a part of circles of protection. These circles are composed of two or three individuals that understand what it means to live with nothing hidden. They are people that I have established relationships of increasing trust, vulnerability, and openness. They are the ones that I know can bear the worst about me and love me more for it, not less. And I can bear their stories as well. Together we stand together to protect each other!
The key to this kind of protection is humility. It may seem hard to believe, but it is much harder to confess what I am planning to do than to acknowledge what I have done. For some perverse reason I would rather fail miserably than tell someone I am headed down the slippery slope to disaster.
To be restored, I need to humble myself, stop trying to manage my sin, and commit to living with nothing hidden. To be a restorer of others, I need to humble myself, commit to living with nothing hidden, and be willing to cultivate relationships with others on the basis of openness, vulnerability and trust. That is much harder than taking my place above my ailing brother and exhorting him to 'reckon yourself dead', 'resist the devil', and 'go forth and sin no more'! And way more effective for both of us!
So when it comes to restoring and being restored, let's let protection trump accountability so that every joint might be in place, healthy, whole and contributing to the building up of the body.