Galatians 6 (AD 48)
When a family member gets sick, it’s understood that you need to look after them, comfort them and give them the medication they need. Depending on the nature of the sickness, you might have to put yourself into danger of infection to fulfil your obligations to the sick person. Or maybe it’s just food poisoning, where rubbing their head and clearing up buckets of vomit could be the worst of it
And that’s pretty much what we’re dealing with here.
To be ‘caught’ in sin is to sin in an obvious way that someone denies or doesn’t know is sinful, or their pattern of sin is exposed. Then we – other Christians (i.e. those who “live by the Spirit”, v.1) – need to help them.
Talk to them about where they’re going wrong in a way that makes it obvious you take no joy in pointing out fault. Show through your manner that you’re not scoring points, but simply want the their person’s best interests. Doing that “gently” (v.1) means not giving unnecessary cause to the sinning person to push back and refuse the help. Tell them clearly why you are doing what you’re doing, which will also serve to check your own attitude.
Resist the temptation to compare yourself – favourably or unfavourably – with other people, either because you helped them once or because you feel like you haven’t needed to be helped in that obvious way yourself. After all, Peter had plenty to be humble about and no reason to brag, but I know nobody who’d consider themselves a better Christian than he was.
“carry their own load” in verse 5 doesn’t contradict verse 2’s “Carry each other’s burdens”. The first refers to our responsibility to care for each other when we are spiritually sick, the second refers to not pretending other people can take responsibility for your behaviour or attitudes.
So clear up the metaphorical vomit of sin, but don’t get so close in your counselling and concern that you end up getting sick yourself, Paul said (v.1). That’s where we need wisdom. Ask yourself, am I entering so far into this person’s sinful world that I’m in danger of becoming a part of it? Is it really helpful to be with them while they’re sinning in order to help them get out? Don’t assume that because you haven’t fallen into their sinful habits yet, that you’re immune from temptation.
Take responsibility for your own growth in holiness and face up to your own sins. And as you do so, actively look for those who may need help with theirs, so that you can encourage and nurture them into taking responsibility for their sin, seeing it clearly to avoid it.
It might be icky family stuff, but it’s some of the greatest work you can do.
Paul closed this letter with a final plea, returning to his original theme. PLEASE don’t give in to those who put works on top of grace. Forgiveness is free. Don’t lose it by trying to earn it.