Restoration waits for those on the path of repentance.
As a father of many foster, three birth, and one adopted, I had my fair share of bellowing out the command, “go to your room,” due to their disobedience or misbehavior. The purpose of that consequence was to use the forced family separation as a time of reflection in hopes that repentance would follow. At the right time, I would make my way to their room, talk about what was done, reveal their error, chat with them about any further consequences, layout how they should have acted, and then explained what needed to be done on their part for reconciliation and restoration. From the moment I sent them to their room to the time when they were released, I was in complete control as the figure of authority; the one motivated by love that intentionally used the separation as a tool for their betterment. Would it have been appropriate for one of their siblings to open their door and set them free? Or, sneak into their room with a game and play? How about the entire family bringing up dessert and all having a grand time in their room while they were supposed to be separated? Of course not! Why? Because it was not their place to interfere; they lacked the authority to usurp dad’s path of reconciliation. But, consider what would have occurred if the mom and all the other children went to their room and played all day, even eating dinner with them? That child would not have experienced the lesson in separation and would have harbored harsh feelings toward the father as he was the only one perceived to be unfair.
There are times when our Heavenly Father operates in like manner, and through church discipline, sends a child to their “room” for introspection; as the first step on the path to repentance and reconciliation. Over the years, I have experienced a few occasions where a church member’s sins were confronted only to have them dig in deeper, refuse to repent, and ultimately walk away from the fellowship. Clearly, they were in sin; angry, immature, slanderous, spiteful, vindictive, and carnal, yet something inevitably occurs most of the time in the season of separation; their siblings interfere with God’s tool of restoration. From the comfort of their homes, and amid their sin, their brothers and sisters in Christ start to call, visit, send cards, all conveying the same message, “We love you, we miss you, please come back, the church needs you.” They continue to receive copies of the bulletins, the monthly financial statements, and a constant flow of gossip, all from their family members; words of affirmation, comfort, and concern from every member of their family except for their Father. The season of silence that God would have used to evoke feelings of isolation and loneliness, restoring the sinner in their relationship with God through repentance, has been hindered, stopped even, by the well-intentioned. Folks have essentially gone into the room of their disobedient sibling, set up a nice meal, and had a party while the Father watched with a grieved heart from the other room.
Sin separates, it always has, ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Right after they ate the forbidden fruit, they hid from God behind some bushes. When God came to the garden that day, he asked, “Where are you?”, not because He was terrible at playing Hide and Seek, nor did God lose His power of omniscience, instead because He wanted Adam and Even to acknowledge their season of separation, confess their sins and be restored (Gen. 3). Nothing stood in the path of God’s plan of reconciliation, and Adam and Eve were better for it. Even today, we are commanded to protect God’s season of separation when our Father is disciplining His children (Isa. 59:2, Mt. 18:15-17, I Cor. 5:1-13).
In high school, I spent a weekend with a friend at his house. During that stay, my friend got into trouble with his dad, and while my friend was being yelled at, I injected something like, “It wasn’t all his fault…” I never finished that sentence for his dad looked at me sternly and said something like, “Don’t get in my way, this is MY son.” This was reinforced in boot camp years later as we all witnessed the mistake of getting between a drill instructor and the recruit he was correcting! How much more should we refrain from getting in God’s way? We lack the authority to usurp His plan of reconciliation; it is simply not our place. And, if we genuinely want the best for our brothers and sisters in Christ, as much as it pains us to hear the laments from their isolation, we must acknowledge our Father knows better and stay out of His way.
Scripture: “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” -Titus 1:13, ESV
Question: Do you know anyone that God has placed in a season of separation? Would you commit to praying for this person that God’s children would protect this time, that they would soon repent and be restored into the fellowship?
Prayer: Father, it is difficult to see someone we care about and love being disciplined. Please help me have the strength to trust you through the process. May I never interfere or stand in the way of your path of restoration. May the separated one miss the fellowship of their church family, the sweetness of your presence, the intimacy in prayer, and the power of your love enough to repent of their sins and be restored into your family. Thank you for caring enough to invest in our lives; you are a good Father. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.