1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5for each one should carry his own load.
6Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
The Bible, and particularly the New Testament, is packed with instructions as to how we, as Christians should lead our lives. These instructions are not, as many non-Christians see it, an attempt to stop us enjoying ourselves, but provide a basis on which we can spread God’s kingdom across the planet.
Of all the passages in the New Testament providing us with instruction, Galatians 6:1-10 has spoken the most to me, and has encouraged me to think about how I live my life. I hope that it will speak as much to you.
Having read this passage, what would you say the main emphasis of it is? To me, it speaks very clearly of how we should place others, and the needs of others, before our own selfish needs. This point is first taken up in verse two – “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” The interesting thing about this verse is that is doesn’t limit the types of burdens we should carry for others – it simply says “carry each others burdens.” Paul previously made this point in his letter to the Romans – “we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbour for his good, to build him up” (Romans 15:1-2). We have a responsibility, then, to support and encourage one another, not just in our faith, but in every aspect of our lives, because in this way we will please Christ. There are so many ways that we can support and encourage one another in everything we do – we are limited only be our imagination.
This theme is continued towards the end of this passage. In verse nine, Paul says “let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” What is this harvest that Paul speaks of? To me, he is speaking of the effect on those around us of being kind and supportive, and “doing good to all.” These days, it seems almost the norm that we knock each other down, belittle one another, and are generally rather unpleasant to each other. What better way is there of showing the love of Christ to those around us than by being prepared to stand out from the crowd, and take an altogether more positive, helpful and friendly response to people we meet and interact with? This attitude would be an amazing witness, and one that will certainly challenge the ideas of others.
Paul goes on to say, in verse ten, “therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” The value of this attitude has already been seen, specifically in terms of evangelism. But here Paul does not speak particularly of evangelism, but particularly of doing good to “those who belong to the family of believers.” As Christians, we are all brothers and sisters of Christ who try our best to live up to the standards that Christ himself set us, and to mirror his example. This implies a manner of dealing with one another that sadly does not always happen. We should always strive to place others before ourselves, and to avoid adopting a self-serving attitude.
Specific examples of how we can support one another are also included in this passage. The passage opens with Paul advising us on the approach that we should take if a fellow Christian is caught in sin – we are advised to “restore him gently.” This is important, since so often we are quick to judge, and harsh in our words and actions towards those who do things that we do not approve of. Paul’s words are, indeed, reminiscent of Jesus’ attitude to the woman caught in adultery in John chapter eight. Rather than condemning the woman, Jesus remarks “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Only one person is able to judge, and that is Jesus himself, since God has entrusted all judgement to him (John 5:22). It is not our place to judge.
So how should we respond to someone caught in sin? How should we restore such a person gently? By far the best action that we can take is to spend time with them, encouraging them in their faith, reading the Bible with them, and praying with them. It’s probably best not to even mention the sin directly, since they’ll immediately put their barriers up, and then won’t be in a position to receive the support that they deserve.
It is important to remember when dealing with such a situation that we are ourselves poor, worthless sinners who are undeserving of everything God gives and does for us. Paul tells us that “if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (verse three). We should not be so arrogant as to think that we are any better than anyone else. In fact, Paul adds that we should test our own actions against Christ’s, not against anyone else’s (verse five). Pride is a frightening attitude of mind, since it distances us greatly from God. If we start thinking that we are good, we immediately put a great distance between ourselves and God. We need other people to support, help, and encourage us, which is precisely why we should take this approach to others we meet.
So, in conclusion, what have we learnt from this passage? Paul’s instructions to us are summarised in verse ten – “let us do good to all people.” We need to remember this, and to constantly strive to achieve this. It’s hard, particularly when those around us seem to take great delight in making each other feel small, and proclaiming themselves to be better than everyone else. But by striving to adopt this attitude towards others, we will be serving God in one of the most effective ways we can, since not only will be helping others to remain faithful to the gospel, we’ll also be sending out a very clear message to those around us of what it really means to be a Christian. And if everyone was to adopt this attitude, the world really would be a much better place.