Bear One Another's Burdens
Topic: Community Passage: Galatians 5:25– 6:5
We are going to talk about something very important this morning and that is: what do you do when another Christian you know, does something obviously wrong or sinful. That is a real part of life in a church family! So often these situations are either terribly mishandled or more often, they are ignored altogether. But Paul tells us how to do it, here in these verses.
To get the flow of thought here I started with the end of chapter 5, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let’s stop being arrogant, provoking one another and envying one another”.
The very mark that we are guided by the Spirit is that we are living in love, and humility with one another. There is no such thing as being a Spirit led person and not having this attitude toward our brothers and sisters. So Paul says, “Let’s be guided by the Spirit, let’s NOT be arrogant and ugly and mean to each other. Being guided by the Spirit to live on a completely different plane than living in conflict and strife, comparison and envy. If you are in the Spirit you are NOT stirring up strife, you are NOT looking down your nose at others! The very essence of being in the Spirit, is to live in love and humility with each other!
So...Here is a very simple, clear way for you to evaluate your relationship with the Spirit at any given moment. If you are being proud, demanding, difficult, you are not in the Spirit, (you are just NOT!) no matter what your excuses may be. When you realize you are not walking in the Spirit, you deal drastically with the flesh, you consider yourself crucified and dead to that sin. And then you give yourself over to the Holy Spirit again to walk in love, joy, peace, kindness, patience and goodness.
Then Paul says, here is how this (Spirit-filled living) works when someone is caught doing something wrong. When you see somebody sin, or show immaturity, or show a bad attitude, that should not pull YOU out of your walk in the Spirit. You don’t treat the flesh with the flesh. You don’t respond to the faults of others with harshness, and pride and superiority. You remain humble, patient, gentle, loving, IE you deal with the disobedience of others in the Spirit. Verse 1 says, “Brothers if a person is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual, should restore that person gently”. The ESV says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness”.
The phrase “Those of you who are spiritual” means “those of you who consistently live in communion with the Holy Spirit”. Lewis Sperry Schaeffer said, “He that is spiritual is spiritual because he is rightly related to the Holy Spirit”. Those who are spiritual are those who pay attention to the things of the Spirit. They value their inner connectedness to the Holy Spirit and they walk in that.
No one does it perfectly, but many walk in it consistently enough that Paul or other Christians can look at them and say they are “those who are spiritual”. This is not a special category reserved for certain people. To “be spiritual” is the normal Christian life that we are all called to. I think this should stir our hearts to want to walk with the Spirit in such a way that we would be considered among “those who are spiritual”.
In the book of Galatians Paul has contrasted life in the Spirit with the life of law keeping. These two opposite ways of living show up very clearly in our relation with one another, especially when someone stumbles. The way of the Spirit leads to humility and grace and patience; the way of law and works, often leads to spiritual pride.
Theodore Epp said, “The man after the flesh will reveal himself (or herself) by the way he treats a fellow believer who has failed at some point or other. He will measure the erring brother (or sister) by the standards of the law or by some standards set up by man”. The person guided by law and works will condemn the person who fell, and merely call them back to law based living; the spiritual person will seek to restore them to faith in Christ and living in the Spirit.
Warren Wiersby said, “Nothing reveals the wickedness of legalism better than the way the legalists treat those who have sinned.” We are not called to be legalists, harshly judging those who don’t follow our laws, but to be spiritual! We are to restore the one overtaken by a fault, with gentleness.
Paul seems to have in mind here a person who doesn’t want to live in sin, but was caught in a trespass, or “overtaken” by a fault and this person is conscience stricken and is feeling the burden of his or her sin. In other words it seems Paul is not talking about an out and out rebel, or person stubbornly persisting in their sin, but a person who got caught by the power of a temptation. This is the kind of person who should be restored with gentleness.
Unfortunately, there are times when some people just are not willing to leave their sins behind. And no matter how much you seek to restore them, even with gentleness, they will not listen. There are other firmer approaches that sometimes need to be taken. And simply to be true to other passages in the Bible I think I need to mention that. There is a person that needs a strong rebuke – Paul tells Titus to “rebuke them sternly (or sharply)”. There is a person that needs church discipline. But that’s not who Paul has in mind here.
Luther deals with this balance better than I could so I will quote him on this: “Let the ministers of the Gospel learn from Paul how to deal with those who have sinned. “Brethren,” he says, “if any man be overtaken with a fault, do not aggravate his grief, do not scold him, do not condemn him, but lift him up and gently restore his faith. If you see a brother despondent over a sin he has committed, run up to him, reach out your hand to him, comfort him with the Gospel and embrace him like a mother. When you meet a willful sinner who does not care, go after him and rebuke him sharply.” But this is not the treatment for one who has been overtaken by a sin and is sorry. He must be dealt with in the spirit of meekness and not in the spirit of severity. A repentant sinner is not to be given gall and vinegar to drink.”
The end of verse 1 says, “Watch out for yourself so that you are not tempted as well”. Instead of proudly thinking this other guy is such a hopeless fool or looser, for falling for this temptation, you should humbly be on guard that YOU do not fall into temptation.
It doesn’t say you are NECESSARILY tempted to do the same thing at your brother or sister did, it just says, “watch that you are not tempted as well”. You are to remember your own weaknesses and possibility of falling, if not in the same way, perhaps in a different way. We are all tempted in different ways. You may see someone do something wrong and you think, I would never do that. And maybe it is a sin that you are not tempted in, in any way. BUT to be blindly unaware that you could be tempted and fall is a proud and dangerous way to think!
Any time you hear about someone in the body of Christ who has sinned, PART of your response should be, “Lord, I don’t EVER want to do that! Keep ME from sinning. Keep ME from falling. Keep ME from evil.”.
We are to try to restore others to fellowship without exuding a sense of superiority. Without any kind of smugness about our own walk with God.
So this is the attitude of heart that we go with to that person who has stumbled in some kind of sin. But there is something else here we might easily miss. That is, that we DO GO to the person and seek to restore them. It is very easy to stay away from someone who has sinned. It is very easy to avoid saying anything to them about it. It is very easy to just act like nothing ever happened. It is very easy to communicate by your silence that you condone and approve of what they did. It is very easy to just say who am I to judge, and leave the fallen brother or sister to continue on in their fault or sin, and struggling with guilt.
God’s way is that you care enough to confront. You go with gentleness, but you do go. Sometimes that person is already well aware that they have done something wrong and you really just need to be there to help guide them back into an assurance of forgiveness and back onto a path of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Other times people need to be shown their fault and reminded of the kind of life God has called them to. Either way we are to do it with gentleness and patience. There should not be a person among us who is caught in some sin that we do not seek to restore!
So the evidence that you are spiritual, is that you are willing to restore a person caught in doing wrong, and you do it with gentleness, patience, and humility, and pity.
As I said, Paul seems to have in mind here a person who doesn’t want to live in sin, but was caught or overtaken by a fault and because of that he or she is burdened down.
So he says in verse 2 “Practice carrying each other’s burdens.” Sin does burden people down. Sin weighs on a person. So this person is burdened by guilt and discouragement. He or she may be burdened by a sense of hopelessness or feel in bondage to their spiritual failure. Any genuine believer who is caught in doing something wrong WILL BE WEIGHED DOWN by that. So...
We are to go to that person and help lift that burden, to restore them to the experience of forgiveness, and the joy of salvation. We are to help them get free from the wrong-doing they fell into. We are to restore them back to the place of faith and assurance and walking in the Spirit, living in righteousness, peace and joy. We don’t just say, “Hey, nobody is perfect”, and trivialize their wandering away from God. It is more than that! We are to lift them back to a place of walking with God, and enjoying God and living for God! We are to help bring them back to overcoming the world, the devil and the flesh, rather than being overcome by these things.
God wants us to be in this kind of in-depth spiritual relationships with one another, so we can restore one another. One of the great tragedies today is that many Christians are so isolated and disconnected to a local church family, that they fall and don’t even know how far from God they are, and they are not around anyone who will help them to see that and lead them back to God.
These verses deal with ONE way we bear one another’s burdens. But we are to carry one another’s burdens in many ways: when people around us are hurting in any way, when they are experiencing trouble in their home, or marriage or with their kids, or when they are having difficulties with job or money, when they are having health problems, when they are grieving some loss. Regardless of what a person’s burden is, we are to help them carry it.
David Guzik said, “Look for a brother or a sister with a burden, and help them with it. It isn’t complicated, and it doesn’t take a huge program or infrastructure to do it. Just look for a burden to bear and bear it”. If you want God to use your life, here is your ministry, “Go love somebody. Go find someone with a burden and help them carry it!”
A terrible way for you to use this verse would be to think, people are supposed to bear MY burdens, and then start judging them for not doing that! Again I quote David Guzik, The focus isn’t on “expect others to bear your burdens.” That is self-focused, and always leads to pride, frustration, discouragement, and depression. Instead, God always directs us to be others-focused, and says, “Bear one another’s burdens.”
So spiritual people (which we all are to be) seek to restore the person who stumbles, they do it with gentleness, and spiritual people bear one another’s burdens. Theodore Epp “We shall not live for ourselves when the Holy Spirit fills us. We (will) stand in the place of bearing the burdens of many needy souls.”
Verse 2 goes on to say, In doing this you “fulfill the law of Christ”. The law of Christ is the law of love. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another as I have loved you”. This effort to go and lift someone’s burden, is fulfilling the most important thing Christ has called you to do, to love one another. This is not merely an exterior law, but it is a law written in your heart by the Holy Spirit. The love of God has been poured into your hearts by the Holy Spirit. People who have the Spirit of God love other people, by helping them carry their burdens!
In the remaining verses Paul continues to warn against pride and to call us to humility towards one another.
Verse 3, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is really nothing, he is only fooling himself”. One thing that could keep us from restoring our brothers and sisters, and carrying their burdens, is “thinking we are really something” (or thinking we are too good for this). Some in the church might think that because they are NOT the one who stumbled, that they are superior, or just inherently better, than the one who fell into the trespass. INSTEAD of seeking to restore that person who has done something wrong, some love to judge them and feel superior to them. But the person who feels superior or smug is really fooling himself! And may be caught in the far more serious sin of spiritual pride.
We are nothing in the sense that we have nothing to boast about before God. Apart from what Jesus did for us on the cross we would have no righteous standing before God. Apart from the life of the Spirit in us, we are incapable of living for God. A genuinely spiritual person knows his strength and goodness and righteousness is all from the Spirit dwelling in him. And he is not going around projecting this image that he or she is really something special, above all the rest. Not at all, instead you will sense a gentleness and humility, a lowliness about the one who is spiritual.
In verse 4 and 5, Paul still has in mind those who may feel superior to the brother who has sinned. He says, “Each person must examine his own actions, and then he can boast about his own accomplishments and not about someone else (or not in comparison to someone else). For everyone must carry his own load.”
This may sound like a contradiction because Paul just told us to bear one another’s burdens. In the first case Paul is saying we are to help ease the burdens of others, by helping to lift their load when they are troubled, and distressed by various sins and faults. In this case he is talking about carrying the load, or taking responsibility for our OWN walk with God.
Paul has in mind the person who would be very critical of a sinning brother, AND at the same time is NOT carrying “the load” of the things God has called him or her to do. This happens all the time! Someone is all worked up about that OTHER person in the church who stumbled and fell, and doesn’t take care of their own backyard, so to speak. Paul says, “Do all that God calls YOU to do, THEN you can have something to boast about!” It is his way of calling someone down off the pinnacle of pride.
Paul is saying, “Don’t get your sense of spiritual progress out of comparing yourself to other people”. The NIV says “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else”. Don’t think you are really something because you didn’t sin like your spouse, or that other person in the church. No you must answer for your OWN life. Examine your own life, be careful about how YOU walk and talk”. If you are doing ALL YOU are supposed to do then you can boast! One of the great difficulties in resolving marriage conflicts is that so often each person can ONLY see the other person’s faults and sins and needs. And they bring only accusations without and sense of SELF EXAMINATION.
*Blessed are those rare people who will go to a person who has fallen or done something wrong. This is a mark of a spiritual person. They see when someone is caught in a certain sin or fault. They know how dangerous that is. They want that person to be free. They also know the internal guilt and turmoil that person is likely undergoing and they go to lift the burden of despair off that person. If you have ever done that or are doing that now with someone, blessings be upon you!
*If you have ever been that person caught in a fault, you should highly appreciate those who come to you to help you. Don’t attack them, or slander them. Very few people in your life will love you enough to help you when you are overtaken by a fault.
James 5:19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins”. IE they are doing you a huge favor!
*Blessed are those who are gentle in spirit when they do go to others to restore them. It is easy to unload on someone when they sin. It is easy to let somebody have it. It takes the Spirit of God to deal gently with our brothers and sisters.
*Be a burden lifter! Be a person who looks for people carrying a load and then go and find a way to lighten their load. Pray, listen to the Spirit, and go. Christ bore the burdens of our sin, and we are like Christ when we bear the burdens of others.