The Send Network Church Planting Blog

Restoration of the fallen: Why?

January 8, 2018 by Bryan Barley

Two years, over 600 verses, one shining moment...

From 2014 to 2016, I had the privilege of leading our church through a verse-by- verse study in the Gospel according to Mark. Two years, and well over 600 verses later, I found my favorite verse in the entire book was when an angel says to several women who have come to Jesus’ empty tomb: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’” (Mark 16:7).

Remember the context of all this: The disciples have just abandoned Jesus in the moment he needed them most. Their abandonment comes within hours of them telling Jesus they would be loyal to him to the bitter end (Mark 14:31). It would have been easy for them to assume they’ve messed up so badly the mission and movement is dead. But in the height of their despair, they get word that not only is Jesus alive, but so is the movement, and He’s still going to use them, despite their failures.

But take it a step further. Why does the angel say: “Tell the disciples and Peter”? Because Peter was the one who had failed the worst, despite portraying an image of being the best. The same man who promised Jesus he would be the most dependable (Mark 14:29-31), publicly and repeatedly denies any relationship with Jesus because he’s intimidated by the interrogation of a young girl (Mark 14:71).

So what must it have been like for Peter to get word that Jesus is alive? His response was probably not rejoicing, but rather fear of retribution. “You guys go. I messed up too much. There’s no way Jesus wants to use me in His future plans.” But these women, equipped with the comfort of this angel, were able to respond to Peter’s despair, “Hey Peter, Jesus actually asked specifically for you.” What joy, comfort, and hope must have filled his heart!

Two years, and well over 600 verses later, the reason I love Mark 16:7 above all others is because it beautifully reflects Jesus’ unique love for those who are uniquely broken. Historically, many of the greatest leaders in God’s movement have severely fallen and been restored by the grace of God.

An experience all too familiar

When we reflect on our own experience, it’s not difficult for most of us to empathize with the pain and disappointment Jesus must have felt in response to his friends’ betrayal. What is hard is to replicate this kind of gracious response toward the people who have hurt us. If we’re honest, our response in these moments trends less toward gracious pursuit for restoration, and more toward quickly discarding this person because they’re no longer “useful” to the mission.

Two prayers to change our hearts

But how do we handle these painful experiences like Jesus, when our instincts push us toward the opposite? Prayer is the natural place to begin, as we ask God, by the power of His Spirit, to propel our hearts to love and desire that which feels so unnatural — that the fallen not only can be restored, but actually abundantly used to see His movement advance.

Specifically, I’d encourage you to ask God to help you believe two truths:

1. God, let me remember this is how you’ve treated me.

Those who understand they’ve received much grace are the ones who are most gracious toward others. When we read a story like Peter’s, our response isn’t to be one of superiority, but rather humble self-awareness — to say this is essentially our story. We have all like sheep gone astray, and our participation in both our salvation and our churches are exclusively because of the restorative work of God’s grace in our lives. When we daily remind ourselves of our need for mercy, a merciful posture is grown in our hearts.

2. God, let me believe it’s the most broken people that you tend to use most significantly.

I’ve found when the church leaders I admire most are vulnerable, their backstory is usually not one of perfect competency, but rather serious failure and restoration. These stories aren’t unusual, but are a continuation of the legacy of our faith’s first great leaders, like Peter the abandoner, or Paul the former terrorist. Reminding ourselves of this historical reality transforms our perspective of the fallen from being unwanted nuisances to seeing them as exciting opportunities to participate hopefully in the continuation of this legacy.

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