This world does not play by our rules. It is as simple as that. Those who do not follow Christ play the game of life by a different set of rules that we who follow Christ, and we need to be aware of that. The fact that they cannot win if they play by their rules should sadden and frighten us, giving an urgency to our evangelism. It is like someone reading the rulebook for American football and then using those rules to play Football, what we know of as soccer. Playing by the wrong rules means you can’t even decipher what victory means let alone how to achieve it. They need to know and it’s up to us to tell them.
But the fact that they play by different rules means we cannot expect them to play by ours. We cannot get angry when they break the rules, but instead realize that these are their rules. Within the church, however, this is not so. Within the church, we all play by the same rules, and when we break one, we need our teammates to correct us. But how to do so.
This has been a debate for centuries: how do you correct and restore a fellow Christian who is breaking the rules? Jesus spoke about this in Matt. 18, and Paul mentions it here. Paul’s primary teaching on the topic is not the form of punishment to use, or the duration of their probation, but the attitude with which we do it. We must “restore that sister or brother gently.” This is where the sports metaphor breaks down. Coaches are not know to be gentle with their team members who break the rules. I have never been yelled at, sworn at, or belittled so much in my whole life as in the three months when I played freshman football.
But this is not our way. We must be gentle, or we may be tempted to think we are above them. We are not. We fall just like anyone else and when we do, we should hope to be restored gently and humbly by the Body.