As a young child, I remember my mother reading a particular fable to me. While she read, I studied the painting in our storybook that illustrated the fable. It pictured a man who was frantically calling out for help while he was drowning in a river. On the footbridge that spanned the water, another man was casually leaning over the rail looking at the struggling man.
According to the story, the observer was lecturing the man who was drowning beneath him. He was telling him what he ought to have done and letting him know what he should do if he ever got into that situation again. Instead of reaching in with a helping hand and saving the dying man’s life, he talked on and on about what the man who had fallen into the water had done wrong and how he could avoid the same mistake in the future. Clearly the perishing man didn’t need a lecture! He needed help!
And that is what you and I have to do when it comes to praying for those who have fallen and failed. We must help them! We must set aside our disappointment, forsake the lectures, forsake the judgment, forsake the shock, and go to work helping and praying for others, taking heed lest we fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). Sure, correction, instruction, restoration, and rebuilding may come later. But when someone fails and is in trouble, pray and offer a helping hand.
If a man is overtaken in any trespass,
you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness,
considering yourself lest you also be tempted.