Revival Fire: Falling into the Arms of Grace
In the midst of war, we see battle. In battle, we see comrades fall. They fall when engaged in a battle with the enemy, they fall when hit by sniper shots, and they fall in the midst of training exercises. No war, no battle, is without its casualties. Recently, I have read some stories about our fallen soldiers or those who have been seriously injured, and those who stood beside them. Great heroics are undertaken to save a wounded or fallen soldier. Men and women, who are facing an onslaught of gunfire themselves, will grab their comrade and rush them to safety, risking their own lives in the process. Once they are safe from the battle, they will bandage and tend to the wounds of that soldier as best as they can until he can be carefully taken to a medical center where their wounds will be cared for properly. In a medical center, the soldier will most likely be rushed to surgery, the shrapnel will be removed from their wounds, and they will be stitched up and placed in the recovery ward. When the soldier is ready, he will be put into a room where he will be allowed to rest and heal from the battle he just survived. Depending upon the severity of the injury, rest, and proper care may be all that he will need to go back to the battlefront. When the wound is greater, rest will not be enough. He may need more surgery or physical therapy and, in extreme cases such as losing a limb or paralysis, he will need extensive training so he can learn a completely different way of living out his life. Whatever the injury, the greatest care will be taken by his fellow soldiers to ensure the well-being of their comrade and, in the event of serious trauma or death, this care will be extended to the family of this fallen soldier. Military men and women take great care to protect their own. They live together, they fight together, and they die together. My friends, we are in the midst of battle. When we become a Christian, we enter the battle of spiritual warfare. It can be minor battles at first, but as we grow in Christ, the trials and tribulations increase, and so do the battles that we will face as we endure those trials. In this process, we will fall; it is inevitable because no one is perfect. It will happen without notice and in a moment of weakness. After the battle has raged on, long and hard, the enemy, who is hidden like a sniper on the rooftop, hits. Many of our comrades will fall – and they will fall to the deadliest attack of all: sin. This can be devastating to the soldier, his family, his friends, and the church. Unfortunately, most of the time – rather than grab our comrades and rush them to safety where we can properly tend to their wounds – we attack. We surround them, place judgments upon them and their families, and leave them with their wounds open, bleeding, and exposed for all to see. It seems that the higher the rank of our comrade, the harder we attack him or her. Many reading this are probably thinking, "No way! We are Christians; we would never do such a thing & attack our brethren? NEVER!" However, my friends, I ask you to consider; what would you do if a Sunday School teacher was caught stealing from the offering, or, if a Church leader announced that he had been having an affair? What if an usher was found with a tin of gin in his coat pocket? What would you do? Would it make a difference if the person was caught or if he came to confess the sin? Let’s look on the side of confession. Since we are all Christians, we must be Christ-like, right? Thus, it will seem at first as though everyone feels sympathetic to the individual because, after all, he did confess. Then counseling will probably be suggested, or, if the sin was serious enough, demanded. Of course, they would be asked to quietly step down, or, depending on the offense, make a public announcement of their sin and apologize to the congregation, then step down. This all seems harmless and even necessary to bring our brethren to a place of humility and repentance. Right? Then, what happens to our fellow soldier next? Are they forced into a back pew in shame or are they embraced in the same section where they sat before? Do we avoid eye contact and walk quickly by, or do we look at them and smile, welcoming them into the heart fellowship and love? Do we whisper words of judgment and condemnation to others sitting next to us as they walk by, or do we silence our whispers and pray for our wounded brethren? Think about the last time someone in your congregation fell into sin. How did you respond? How did others respond? I have been on both sides of this situation, the one who condemned, and the one who was condemned. Looking back, even though I did not attack them, I wish I had been more supportive and reached out to the person instead of simply avoiding them. I wish I had offered them arms of grace to fall into. Now, I can only pray that they forgive me for my failure during their pain. The ones who are hit the hardest when they fall are the leaders of the Church. It seems as though, when a leader falls, we feel especially betrayed. After all, we trusted them with our guidance and growth, and they fell. Shouldn’t they practice what they preach? However, I ask you; why is it different if a leader falls? Is it perhaps because we have held them in a place within our hearts reserved only for God? There is a place of esteem and respect that we should have for these leaders. They have paid the price to be in the position they are in and, as a result, they are hit the hardest by the enemy. However, if the truth were told, many of us hold teachers, members of the choir, our pastors, and others who hold a position in the Church (and any other type of ministry) in much higher esteem than we should. We brag about how good our choir is, how awesome our teachers are, or how that evangelist "shook our Church back into shape". Then, when they fall, we recant what we have said and begin to attack. Friends, we need to remember that they are human and they will fall, but they need the love and support of the congregation to bring them up from their sin and into repentance and healing. They need this just as much as anyone else in the body of Christ. To stomp on the hand that once fed you is something we expect from the world, not the Church. Ultimately, when all is said and done (and most of the time, it does not matter whether they were caught or confessed), our fellow brethren are left alone, ripped from their position, having had their lives dissected to see if any more dirt could be found in them with which to fuel our rage against them for falling. Then, after days, weeks, or months of being beaten with words and contemptuous glares, that person does not want to enter through the doors of a Church again. Is that the way God has called us to treat our fellow brethren? Is that the way a soldier treats his comrade when they are in battle on the warfront? No! Why is it then, that we who are called into the greatest of all battles – spiritual warfare – we cannot embrace the example set before us by the soldiers of the world? They put us to shame. We are in a battle, my friends, and we live day in and day out in a spiritual war. If we do not take care of our own, then Satan will take them out any way he can&even by using us to destroy them. My friends, I say it again: this is a battle! If our comrades fall to sin, we need to surround them with love. We need to kneel beside them and nurture their wounds with tenderness and care. We need to stand beside them and protect them from attack while they are healing. We need to pray them through to victory. We need to make a way for this comrade, who stood beside us for so long, to have every opportunity to heal and rise back up, and fight beside us again. We need to open our arms and let them fall into the arms of grace. If we do not do this, the enemy will have successfully taken our fellow soldier and placed him in a prison of sin, guilt, and shame. Successful again, Satan will have used us to accomplish his goal: to take out the Christians. Guilt and shame are two the biggest weapons of the enemy that we are fighting. That being said, why is it that we rarely see a person’s sin revealed within the Church without it becoming a scandal of sorts? Is it because we are hungry for gossip and scandal? Is it because we are falling into the trap the enemy is setting for our comrade? Could it also be because as we gaze at and magnify the sin of our brother, we do not have to look at the sin in our own hearts? Is it maybe a little of both? My friends, sin does not belong in the Church – I know that, you know that, and the Bible tells us that. Yet, we are from Adam, the first fallen man, thereby making our very nature that of a sinner. Therefore, we are going to sin; all of us are going to sin. When that happens, shouldn’t we do to others as we would want done to us? Think about this for a moment; when sinners enter the Church, confess their sin, and accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior, the believers surrounds them and give them reading materials, a Bible, a church bulletin with all the meeting times, and even a number they can call anytime they have questions or need prayer. Usually, we will befriend them and take them to Church with us, and then invite them to lunch afterward. We surround them and provide them with anything and everything they need to become strong soldiers who will one day stand beside us in battle. Why is it that when a fellow soldier who has stood beside us in battle for years falls, do we not provide the same support for him? What if the Church was a place where people who had been saved for years could confess their sins – and feel safe in doing so? If they knew without question that the moment they confessed their wrongdoings, their fellow soldiers would embrace them and help them to overcome their sin rather than attack them, wouldn’t they be more likely to confess earlier – before their sin overtook them and it came out as a scandal? I think that if a person felt safe enough to do this, the level and depth of sin that ended up "exposed" in the Church would be far less than it is today. My friends, we are instructed to love one another. We are instructed to love our neighbor as ourselves. I want to encourage you to do just that. The Church as a whole must become a place where Christians and sinners can come, safely confess their sins, and receive forgiveness and acceptance. If we cannot support our brethren in this battle – the most important battle of all – we are failing our duty as Christian soldiers. The next time someone’s sin is exposed, remember two things: one; all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (meaning we are all going to sin) and two; by grace we are saved. Please, dear friends, open up your arms and let your fellow soldiers and sinners alike fall into arms of grace – and be healed. Blessings in Him, Ricci Wilson My article in the next Revival Fire Newsletter will be focused on those who have been hurt by the Church.