How to Help a Christian Who is Trapped in Sin
- Mark Altrogge Senior Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA
- 2014 7 Oct
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1
Ever been caught in a sin? The word translated “caught” in Galatians 6:1 means “overtaken.” It has the meaning of becoming ensnared. Overpowered. Caught in a trap.
Not only unbelievers, but believers can get tripped up by sin. Ensnared. Unable to break out easily.
How should we react?
How should we treat someone who is overtaken by a sin? What if someone comes to you and confesses they’re ensnared in pornography? Or they’ve been giving into anger or overeating. How should we react to them?
Unfortunately, believers don’t always react with much gentleness. When a teen confesses a sin, parents say things like, “How could you do such a thing?” or “What were you thinking?” Sadly, there were times when my children confessed sin to me that I expressed my disappointment by dropping my head or displaying a pained look.
God’s word says that if anyone is caught in ANY transgression we should restore them with gentleness. ANY transgression—believers fall hard at times. Believers get ensnared in bad things. Sin is deceptive and very often believers fall prey to its wiles. Although it’s disappointing and sad and at times shocking when a fellow believer confesses falling into a serious sin, we must be careful in the way we react to them.
Our goal: restore them to Christ
Our first goal should be to RESTORE them to Christ—“you who are spiritual should restore him.” We should point them to Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy. To remind them that he paid for every single one of our sins on the cross. To assure them that Jesus is a sympathetic and merciful high priest who waits on his throne of grace to show them mercy and give them help in time of need.
Even if they are unrepentant our goal should be to rescue and restore them to Christ. Church discipline as described in Matthew 18 is not punishment, but a rescue operation that seeks to win straying sheep back to the Lord.
Gentleness, not exasperation
And as we seek to restore someone we should do it “in a spirit of gentleness,” not exasperation—“I can’t believe you did that again!” There’s no place for anger or disgust. Sin has painful consequences, and sinners are often hurting. Hurting people need to be handled with gentleness.
This doesn’t mean we can’t bring correction, especially if they aren’t listening or repenting. But we should always treat others as we would like to be treated.
And one of the greatest motivators for gentleness is to “keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We should never judge anyone caught in a sin, because next time it might be us. We could be tempted and fall into the same sin, or a different one, and find ourselves needing to be restored. Never think, “How could this person do this?” or “I would never do that!” It’s always best to think, “I’m a sinner, too. I could fall, too. Our roles might be reversed next time.”
I haven’t always done these things well. I haven’t always been gentle. I have been arrogant in my heart. But I want to be more like Jesus who didn’t wait for us to have our acts together before he had compassion on us. And I want to fear God, knowing that I can be tempted and fall just like anyone else.
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.