I saw this photo on Facebook. The caption said "not all who wander are lost." I don't know if it was a quote or just the thoughts of the person who took the photo but it struck me and caused me to think. I don't think the person who posted it meant it in a spiritual sense but because I think in spiritual terms, I thought to myself, that is true spiritually speaking as well.
We all know people who have wandered from the faith because of circumstances or just plain neglect of their spiritual life. That does not mean that they are lost forever. Galations 6:1 say "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to oneself so that you too will not be tempted." There are 3 key ideas reflected in this process that we need to observe and follow if we truly want to call ourselves "ministers of reconciliation." But first let's take a small look at the idea of reconciliation.
Reconciliation is the "act of being friendly again after a disagreement." When you think of it in these terms, we have to remember that we were at odds with God. The cost of our reconciliation was not only great, it was also COMPLETE! There is nothing that needs added or refreshed or renewed. It is once and for all complete!Also remember that the terms, conditions and accomplishment of our reconciliation was totally on God. We, the beneficiaries, could do nothing or add nothing to make the work complete. God, the perfect one, gave all so that we could have all. Now in terms of reconciling and restoring one that wandered from the faith, we need to remember that, relatively speaking, we are in the same positions that God was in when he reconciled us unto Himself. It's not a 50/50 deal. Yes, the one repenting has to truly have repented, but we must also forgive, accept and receive back the one who wandered. This is called FORGIVENESS and it is born from LOVE. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life."
Now lets take a look at the 3 key attitudes we must have to successfully restore an individual back into the fold.
1. Restore-to return to its former state. So once a person has repented, they are once again on the same level ground that you are on. This means that they are not a sub-Christian or a marred Christian because of what they did. They are washed and clean and their garment is just as white as yours! If God throws our sins in a sea of forgetfulness then we can do no less for those who have repented. Who are we to be remembering, judging and allowing former sins to form how we feel about and treat a repentant sinner? We certainly do not want God or others doing the same thing to us. Nor should we expect or look for a return to sin from the now washed believer, but should as 1 Corinthians 13 directs, "think the best of another." When we expect or look for sins to return, we are, in effect, deriding the power of the Blood of Christ to cleanse and restore. He uses the same blood on others that He used on you. That's a good thought to remember.
2.Gentleness-kind and quiet; not hard or forceful; not in a harsh way. There's no need to remind or rehash their sin over and over again unless for the purpose of finding the reason that caused it in the first place so that it won't happen again. Furthermore, they have just been a punching bag for the devil so they don't need punched anymore. The only way that one can do this in a spirit of humility is to remember point number three.
3.Looking to oneself-realizing that you are not beyond falling to this very same sin or worse. If this wasn't the case, the Lord would not have added this little phrase. Learn from other's mistakes just how vulnerable you are and remember that our human nature makes us "prone to wander." If you saying "that would never happen to me...I would never...then take heed! You are already on shaky ground! Don't get on your high horse but remember that "pride comes before a fall." You're not all that and a bag of chips yourself. Don't compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to Christ, the sinless, spotless, perfect one. You too, have already failed and with the same mind that was in Christ, with the heart that has had the love of God shed abroad in it, restore others as you have been restored.