This weekend I went “hiking” with a friend. I put hiking in quotations because it really doesn’t exist in Florida. But as we went along I saw a butterfly violently flitting around on the ground. I crouched down to examine the erratic moving insect. Part of its wing hung on by a tiny thread. My friend walked back to see what I’d been looking at. Noticing the broken-winged butterfly, he said, “You should kill it. Put it out of its misery.” I answered, “No, he’s just got a broken wing. He’ll be alright.” As we walked on I thought to myself, why would he want to kill a butterfly just because it had a broken wing. Give it a fighting chance!
How often do we Christians want to cast another person away because they’re broken. We see friends who’ve come to the faith and after awhile some backslide into an old sin pattern. They disappoint us and it’s such a temptation to throw our hands up in frustration and hurt—desiring to kill the relationship with that “broken” person. We rejoice when they come to Christ, but then seethe when they fall. Many times people just put their hands up in rejection rather than opening their arms for restoration. We see the brokenness overshadow the person and blind us from seeing the Spirit-breathed potential in them.
I have a friend who is relatively young in the faith. I met him in the midst of a huge life turmoil. His desire for God was there, but he couldn’t give up his addictive behavior. In the beginning I stood by him compassionately, fighting the battle with him. I’d be there the times he’d be in the pits of depression—encouraging him. After awhile he began to embrace a new identity in Christ and the addiction’s hold over his life weakened. The fruits of my labor had become apparent. I was proud.
Then, something happened that knocked him over the edge into the habitual pattern again. I grew disappointed, frustrated, and tired. I wanted to throw my hands up and say, “He’s just broken. Time to kill off any hope for him, and put him out of my misery.” Another person even told me that there was no hope for my friend. People like him are all the same…they don’t change. But, I couldn’t believe that. I knew the transformational power of the Holy Spirit in my own life. Surely, the Spirit could do the same thing for this friend.
So I stuck with him—in the midst of my own frustration and doubt—seeing the man I knew he could be and was destined to be. I didn’t get it right all the time, and I’ll admit, some of my frustration came out in condescending verbiage at times. Continuing to fight for him even when he willingly gave in, he eventually grew to a better place of maturity and growth than ever before. He’s now matured and grown to a place of being an encouragement to me in my struggles. He occasionally tells me, “Thank you for not giving up on me. I don’t know where I’d be if you hadn’t believed in me.”
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Galatians 6:1-3
I sought to restore my friend because I knew he wasn’t his brokenness. He wasn’t his failures. I envisioned what God saw in him, and I couldn’t give up. If I fell, I know I would need someone to restore me, not condemn me or label me as broken and cast me off. I’ve had “broken wings” before. Praise God I didn’t have someone come and crush me. I had people come along side and restore me—empathizing with my humanity and imperfection. When it comes to brokenness we all are empathizers not sympathizers. We all face the temptation of the flesh and vulnerability to sin. So we empathize—understanding the human condition.
Paul commands us to restore those caught up in sin gently—not reject them mercilessly. We restore them. Restore. That means we help them return to the person they were becoming. Not start all over. If a brother or sister in Christ sins, we don’t write them off and say they are done for. We look beyond the brokenness and contend for bringing that person back to who they truly are. We must see that which is beyond and more important than the broken parts. We must be restorers and not rejecters.
On that trail, my friend only saw a broken wing, and thus, it needed to be put out of its misery. The butterfly had no reason to keep living. But I didn’t kill it. Call me ridiculous or a crazy insect lover (which I am not), but I saw the other three wings and the potential it had. Come to find out, butterflies can fly with 75% of their wings. So I bet that butterfly we found struggling a few days ago with only one broken wing (25%), is flying around today with the other 75%, because someone saw the possibilities of the other three wings and didn’t allow the one broken wing to become a death warrant.