How or when do you consider someone drifted away or wondered away? And what is the retoration process?
How or when do you consider someone drifted away or wondered away? And
what is the retoration process?
The Bible makes a distinction between a person who has wandered away and
someone who has fallen away. Hebrews 6:4-8 describes a person who has
become completely unfaithful, who has turned his or her back on God, who
has fallen away. Such a person cannot be restored to repentance. Such a
person willfully continues in sin, has trampled on the blood which has
caused him or her to be forgiven, has insulted the Holy Spirit. (Hebrews
10:26-31) God will ultimately remove the Holy Spirit from such a person.
He or she is worse off than before being saved. It is like a dog
returning to its vomit. (2 Peter 2:21,22). There is nothing you can do to
help such a person.
I am assuming that this is not what you are asking about. I am assuming
that you are talking about a Christian who has not irretrievably fallen
away. You are talking about a person who retains some faith in God, but
who is doing quite poorly spititually. In my opinion there is no exactly
defined biblical process for restoring such a person. Different
situations might call for different response. Galatians 6:1-3 warns us to
be careful in restoring another, as we may be tempted and pulled into the
same sinful situation that our drifted brother or sister is in. At the
same time, this passage implies that it is a good thing to try to restore
one who has wandered.
2 Corinthians describes a process for restoring a person who sinned
against the church and been disfellowshipped. Such a person is to be
tested for a time, and then publicly welcomed back into the fellowship. I
do not know the context of your question, but I am assuming that you are
not conceiving of a person who has been disfellowshipped, but one who on
their own account has wandered from the faith.
How do I consider someone drifted away? I think this is fairly easy. If
a person is no longer fellowshipping with a recognizable body of
Christians, they they have wandered away. If a disciple of Jesus is not
actively worshipping with the church and is in continual, unconfessed sin,
then he or she has wandered away.
In that case, I do not think you need to think of a process so much as you
should think about how you can restore such a person to the faith. I
believe this is done by God working on the heart, but also through the
continued love and reaching out by those who already have relationship
with the one who has wandered. Rather than focusing on process, we should
focus on love and on prayer. Hopefully, if you go after the one sheep who
has wandered, as Jesus describes in the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew
18:12-14), you will be able to bring the lost sheep back into the flock.
If so, you will be acting as Jesus did, and you will be honoring God.
Once you bring the sheep back, I believe there is no exact prescription in
the Bible for what to do, but you might want to take a cue from the
Parable of the Prodigal Son. You might want to throw a party. If
appropriate, the party can be on a small group level, or possibly even in
a formal little ceremony in front of the church. The Bible gives you
freedom in this, but I suggest you do something to celebrate the return of
any lost sheep to the fold.
John Oakes, PhD