Consider with me for a moment the instruction of Galatians 6:1, “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 yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” The goal of counseling one another is to “restore such a one,” which must always be the objective. Sinning brothers and sisters need their fellowship with God restored through repentance toward God and reconciliation with others through confession and forgiveness.
The word used for “restore” is a medical term referring to the setting of a broken bone. According to Ephesians 4:12, where the same term is translated “equipping,” pastor-teachers must train others in the church to do the work of ministry by equipping them to love each other enough to confront one another when necessary. Too many believers think that this ministry of confrontation belongs exclusively to their pastor, but that is not the case. This kind of targeted discipleship requires a commitment from every believer to not cast away or abandon brothers or sisters who are struggling with spiritual defeat (or farm them out to a professional counselor). Instead we must actively come alongside them in order to set the broken bones of their hearts and minds, teach them how to get back on God’s path and thereby train them to consistently walk in His way. Dr. Paul Brand describes the healing process of a fracture in his and Philip Yancey’s book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, which serves as a fitting illustration of how the body of Christ should function:
When bone breaks, an elaborate process begins. Excited repair cells invade in swarms. Within two weeks a cartilage-like sheath called callus surrounds the region and cement-laying cells enter the jellied mass. These cells are the osteoblasts, the pothole-fillers of the bone. Gradually they break down the callus and replace it with fresh bone. In two or three months the fracture site is marked by a mass of new bone that bulges over both sides of the broken ends like a spliced garden hose. Later, surplus material is scavenged so the final result nearly matches the original bone. That is bone’s normal healing cycle.
Just as God marvelously designed the human body to heal a broken bone, so He has equipped the body of Christ with all that is necessary for every member to be involved in the process of restoring broken parts damaged by sin. As with the human body’s reaction to broken bone, restoration of sinning brethren should be the “normal healing cycle.”