Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently…” (Galatians 6:1, NIV 1984).
In clinic today, two patients showed up on my list that I had not seen before, each from a different partner in our practice. I had no idea why they had come, but both had been dissatisfied in some way with their care. This is not unusual in the care of patients with serious problems; my patients occasionally switch to other doctors as well.
As I worked with each of these patients, I was surprised to discover that mistakes had actually been made in their care. None had resulted in harm but both were real mistakes. I worked with the patients and corrected the problems.
Later, I struggled with deciding whether to tell my partners about these mistakes but decided to do so, realizing that I would want to know if the error had been my own.
What responsibility do we have as healthcare professionals to help our colleagues become aware of their mistakes?
For that matter, what responsibility do we have as Christians to help our Christian brothers and sisters become aware of their mistakes, and they ours?
We are a private people who feel that each has a right to his/her own decisions. It is not our business to pry or judge. Therefore, our tendency is to step lightly around another’s poor choices or even willful sins—who are we to judge when we have our own mistakes that we keep closely to ourselves?
This is the American way.
But is it God’s way?
In the Bible, God’s people rarely wake up and discover for themselves that they are headed away from God. Take Abraham and Abimilech (Genesis 20); David and Nathan (2 Samuel 12); and the Samaritan woman and Jesus (John 4). God seems to always be sending people into the lives of those who have fallen, bringing a word of awareness into that fall—and then they begin to change.
We are a church, a community, a people who are responsible for each other. We are not individuals walking through the world on our own with God, responsible only for ourselves.
Please, if you see me sin, come to me and tell me the truth and “restore me gently.” Make me aware, so that I may return again to the path of peace and purpose that God has planned.
Send someone my way when I have sinned and send me when one of your children has lost the way.