What’s your response when someone’s concerning behavior becomes known? How does your church or church leadership respond?
Consider the following scenarios that churches may encounter in their congregation.
- A church board member laughs about trying marijuana gummies on the golf course with his friends on their annual golf trip to San Diego.
- A youth worker confesses they needed a designated driver after the Super Bowl Party they attended because they weren’t sure if they were past the legal limit for driving.
- A young adult who teaches children’s Sunday School regularly posts “thirsty” pictures on social media eliciting comments from others, and it’s concerning her friends.
- A high school student working in a support staff role consumes a whole bottle of cough syrup at winter camp for the cheap thrill and mind-numbing effects.
Would you cut off communication with the person? Would your church want to “get rid of the problem” so they can maintain a “safe Christian environment”?
Galatians 6:1-2 gives us a pattern for effectively dealing with those caught in a struggle, whether they are a teen, a senior citizen, or anywhere in between. It’s a simple strategy, but too often churches fail to give help and hope to those who are caught in concerning behavior or serious sin. Churches and leaders can miss the opportunity to represent the heart of Christ if they fail to model their guidance after His patterns.
“ 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.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Here are three areas that Galatians 6:1-2 challenges us to focus on when helping someone whose sin has become known to us.
1. Begin with Caring Confrontation
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression”
Jesus did not turn a blind eye towards harmful or sinful behavior, rather He sought a relationship with sinners. Some even criticized him for the kinds of people He welcomed into his life. Churches can allow issues to fester and turn a blind eye by saying, “we only deal with problems we find out about” rather than choosing to follow the example of Christ who asked the hard questions. The focus in this verse isn’t on being caught, but rather that the sin has “become known” and a shepherding response is needed.
Dr. Bob Kellemen, biblical counselor and well-known author, reminds us of Christ’s heart in confrontation, “The goal of instructive correction (confrontation) is maturity: love out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5). Thus the goal is virtue (2 Peter 1:3-11): character, not simply content.” 
Loving Christians choose to engage with those who are under their care and deal with problems that might become known. Sin becomes known at times because God providentially exposes sin, and at other times people willingly confess hidden sin. Sadly, some church leaders don’t know their flock well enough to find out about besetting sins, while others snap to quick judgments without listening to the heart of the person involved. These confrontation mistakes undercut the care we are called by God to provide.
We are called to bring loving confrontation to those whose sin has become known. God calls us to know the sheep well enough that we are able to shepherd the common struggles that our people may face.
2. Engage Through Christ-Like Counsel
“you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
Jesus creatively taught and answered the most important questions about life. This is the heart of this passage in Galatians: engaging in restoring conversations that bring about maturity that God desires. Sadly, some churches focus mostly on the public response to problems, rather than the personal restoration from the problem. Some outsource their care, rather than providing Christ-like counsel.
Whether you’re a church leader or a church member, you represent Christ and are called to embrace your Great Commission identity everywhere you are able. This will call us to speak into harmful and sinful behaviors, but we need to take great care as to the messages we send.
Pastor Brad Larson in a recent article reminds us that “Jesus speaks into every condemning reality with grace, since He has borne all condemnation for those who trust him. Hard conversations can be gospel conversations. So while your guts may churn, your heart can also leap for joy at what God might do.” 
We cannot shy away from having the hard conversations that represent the heart of Christ well. We must also be careful to not mispresent Christ by veering into judgmental priorities. God calls us to represent His grace, to make sure that compliance with outward behavioral change is never the priority, but the gospel is the greatest need for the moment.
3. Love Through Continuing Care
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Paul closely linked the idea of loving confrontation and Christ-like counsel with continuing care. The Law of Christ is about loving God with your whole heart and loving others with God’s love. In walking with those who are struggling, we are choosing to love them like Christ loves them. We are choosing to help them remove a risky behavior that would become a burden to themselves and others. Speaking the truth in love and choosing to walk with someone towards maturity is a great act of love.
People who are involved in concerning behavior need confrontation and counseling for sure, but more than that, they need love. They need someone to walk with them through their burdens, to represent the law of Christ. Too often leaders seek to create their own laws, which only further burdens those who are struggling. If you end hard conversations, does that person feel loved by you, or rejected? Do they feel a burden lifted by knowing that you will care for them over time, not just in the moment of crisis?
Jesus modeled for us a ministry that was full of grace and truth. Churches that only care about putting out fires and managing the public response often fail to provide ongoing care and shepherding. Jesus didn’t model for us a ministry of caring most about public reputation. Instead, caring for the lost sheep was closest to His heart.
Bob Kellemen speaks to this balance well, “Peter and Paul insist that as we share God’s Word, we do so with Christlike character and Christlike love. It’s the same message Paul emphasizes in Romans 15:14 where he tells us that the person who is competent to counsel is the person who is both “full of goodness” and “complete in knowledge.”  We must be Christians who authentically share the truth and grace of Christ with those in serious struggles.
We can look at the world around us and begin to develop fear about where it’s heading. We can be afraid of having hard conversations and providing Christ-like counseling and ongoing care. However, God calls us as His Church and His people, to represent His heart well and to respond to those in concerning behaviors around us. Galatians 6:1-2 gives us that better way, one that imitates the heart of Christ.