Just after he lists the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit, Paul gives an exhortation regarding how Christians ought to deal with one another when we fail or see someone else failing.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.5 For each will have to bear his own load. ~Galatians 6:1-5
An exhortation like this gives great insight into our two biggest temptations: carnality and self-righteousness. It assumes that 1. we will be tempted and commit sin, at the very least, transiently, 2. we will need to correct and be corrected about sin transiently, and 3. our natural inclination is to think ourselves better than we are – whether we are the one in sin or the one correcting the sin of another.
Paul’s instructions are simple. They come on the heels of the harsh, wrongful “correction” and exclusion administered by self-righteous men within the church. Paul is sifting through the collateral damage done by puffed up leaders. He is firmly reinstating proper restoration methods in the face of the rancid, loveless correction and competition that has been going on in Galatia.
“…you who are spiritual…”
His advice? First, you must qualify. Before you ever even think about correcting another sinner, examine yourself. Are you spiritual? If not, cease and desist. Give it up. You are in no place to correct anyone if you are not in tune with the Holy Spirit. If you are, however, walking in line with the Spirit, then, and only then, proceed with great caution. Then, if you see your brother sinning, be gentle with him. Restore him.
Restore: to bring back to an original condition; to put someone back in a former position.
Restore. Not reprimand. Not reject. Not ridicule. Not label reprobate. Restore.
Restoration is not retaliation. It is not meant to wound, embarrass, injure, or shame. Restoration is built on brotherly love. It assumes that the transgressor is acting out of character. It implies that the sinner was formerly in right standing with God. The teachers in Galatia instead, assumed just the opposite. They considered men unlike themselves (preferentially speaking) to be men of a different kind altogether – a worse, despicable, derelict kind who had no place at all within their great kingdom. Little wonder why Paul emphasizes the importance of addressing sin properly here. He knows that there are only sinners in the church who will be correcting sinners in the church.
His next warning? Be careful. When you go to one who is in sin, you will likely be tempted to sin right along with them. Know why? Because you are just like him. You are a sinner, too. Got it? Remember it well or you will fall by either sinning with him or sinning by self-righteously thinking you are better than he.
You wanna obey the law? Jesus’ law? Bear your brother’s burdens. Befriend him. Talk to him. Sit with him. Know him. Pray with him. Love him. Lead him. You cannot bear what you do not know. You cannot know a man in his darkest place lest you are, at the very least, willing to know him in his better state. He simply will not let you. Should he? Clearly not. We do not trust those whom we do not know.
Paul repeats himself pointing to the “correctors” back to his own need for great humility. He reminds these guys that they are no better than the men they are seeking to correct. He says, “Remember guys, you are nothing. I am nothing. Jesus is the only one who is something. He is everything. The second you think you are something great and quite possibly are God’s gift to the poor, erring, sinful people of the world, you lie. You lie to yourself. You are deceived, brother, and now in need of correction yourself. Instead of thinking you’re doing God a favor by pointing out everyone else’s sin for them, test your own work. Bear your own load. Then you will be able to bear another’s.”
“This represents as the duty of every man; instead of being forward to judge and censure others, it would much more become us to search and try our own ways; our business lies more at home than abroad, with ourselves than with other men, for what business have we to judge another man’s servant?” ~Matthew Henry
Lord, give us grace. Let us not reject, ridicule, reprimand or retaliate against even the reprobate. Help us learn how to restore one another rightly.