When Rachel and I chose this verse in our sequence for Mummy Meditations, I was a bit worried.
“Brothers and Sisters, if someone is caught in sin, you who live by the spirit should restore that person gently.” Galatians 6:1
Sin… correction… challenging others… I’m a person who generally avoids confrontation. This kind of thing is not up my street at all!
Why fear correcting others?
If we’re brothers and sisters in Christ, as Paul says we are, surely we should be able to challenge one another about sin? Surely we should correct and support each other?
Well, yes. But the truth is, that doesn’t happen that often. When we are sinning, we KNOW we are sinning: we’re deciding to sin. So if someone corrects our behaviour, and points out that it is sinful, of course, we’re going to get our hackles up. It’s going to be a state of attack and defence, not grace.
Not correct: “restore gently.”
Honestly, if gentleness hadn’t been the focus for us this month, I don’t know if I’d have picked up on this phrase. I’d have interpreted it as correct/discipline/challenge. With my teacher brain, I’ve interpreted this as bad behaviour = detention. The focus on ‘restore’ and, especially ‘gently’ has really made me re-evaluate this phrase.
What does it look like to restore someone gently?
The idea of ‘restoring’ someone throws correction out of the window. When you restore something, you return it to it’s previous state. So this is about getting alongside that person, and, motivated by love and grace, helping them through the sin and through to the grace on the other side. The word ‘caught’ in the verse supports this: if you’re caught, it suggests there is a trap – you can’t get out without help. Sin is sometimes like that.
Then this word ‘gently’ is so opposed to my initial disciplinarian view of this verse. Without it, the verse could be interpreted harshly – ‘restore them.’ That could be by any means. Yet the word ‘gently’ implies forgiveness, kindness and love. There’s also the recognition that we are all sinners – at any time it may be us who need to be restored gently.
Restoring our children gently
I’ve thought about this verse a lot with regard to my parenting this week. Personally, I wouldn’t describe myself as a “gentle parent” – in our house we have rewards and consequences and clear boundaries. I’m not always as gentle as I could be. I get tired, I run out of patience and we need to get to school/work/church etc. This week, I hurt my back, and I know the pain and frustration made me much less gentle in my words and tone than I would usually be.
Two weeks ago, I wrote that it takes strength to be gentle. Sometimes, it feels like takes a huge amount of strength to remain gentle, and not to get cross, as I restore my 4 year old back to bed for the 19th time. I know that this idea of ‘restore gently’ is definitely the kind that I’d like to see in my family. Sometimes, when our patience is wearing thin, I know I need to pray for the strength to parent my children gently. I’m adding this to my prayer journal this week!
Next week, we have one final week on gentleness. Rachel will be looking at the following verse, which I think is an amazing way to end what has been a lovely month:
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5