Restoring Others Gently – Galatians 6:1

Paul described what those who “walk by the Spirit” look like in Gal 5:22-26. In the first part of chapter 6 Paul gives another example of walking in the Spirit from Galatians 5. There is a contrast between bearing the burden of the Law (Acts 15:10, 28) and bearing one another’s burdens. These burdens may be spiritual, but there are real physical burdens in mind here as well. The household of God is called to do good to all people, beginning with those in the household who cannot carry their own burdens.

Those who live by the Spirit will restore one another when they are “caught in sin.” What does this mean? To be “caught in sin” sounds like the person is caught red-handed, in the act of a sin. Sometimes people think that if they are not caught, it does not count against them (like speed limits, for example).  But the word Paul uses (προλαμβάνω) translated “overtake” in the aorist passive, as in hunting down an animal (T.Judah 2:5, for example).

Image result for hester prynneIf a person is caught, they are to be restored (καταρτίζω), returned to their former condition. The verb is used for folding and mending nets in Matt 4:21, or to complete what is lacking in 1 Thessalonians 3:10. The restoration is to be done gently (πραΰτης), the same word Paul used as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5:23. This means that the church is not arrogant or inconsiderate when dealing with a public sin, they seek to restore the person to fellowship without humiliating the person who was caught by a sin. The goal of any correction in this verse is a restoration of the brother who has sinned. Paul is not creating some sort of inquisition here.

But Paul also warns the reader not to think too much of themselves. His main concern is conceit and self-deception. Like Gal 5:26, Paul is concerned that the one who “walks by the Spirit” will be tempted, thinking that they are spiritual when they are not. By helping another believer deal with their own burden of sin, someone might become conceited, thinking that they are better than the one caught in sin. There is a balance between confronting a brother or sister in Christ who has a problem and meddling in things that are not your business.

Self-examination is therefore critical for a community of believers. While Paul has encouraged restoring a brother caught in sin, he is not inviting the congregation to investigate the private lives of members of the church looking for potential sins. This verse does not call for an inquisition which investigates church members looking for potential sins.

On the contrary, the first (and only) person that a believer ought to investigate is himself! In verse 1 he says that the spiritual ones who are trying to restore a person caught in sin ought to examine themselves first (σκοπέω). In verse 4 he says that each believer ought to test (δοκιμάζω) their own work. Both words have the sense of critical examination.

Contrary to popular belief (and practice), Christians are not called to a life of critical examination of the lives of other people. After carefully examining their own loves they may be able to restore a brother or a sister in Christ who struggles with sin, but there is no warrant in the New Testament for the sort of judgmental attitude associated with Christianity.

If this balance between self-examination and gentle restoration were practiced regularly, how would it transform the church?

14 thoughts on “Restoring Others Gently – Galatians 6:1

  1. It would transform the church immensely and most likely turn more people towards the church. Many people turn away from the church because of hypocrisy. It is just like what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”. We must look at our own sin and try to fix ourselves before one another. To spiritually grow and reach other people we must evaluate ourselves. Yes we are suppose to help one another not sin, and sometimes hold each other accountable. Many churches think that they can be the judgement for God and say who is going to Hell or not. This is only the place of God and the churches definitely aren’t perfect, so they need to stop pretending to be.

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  2. Sometimes it is difficult to want to do good to all but it especially makes it difficult when the people in your own household do not want to participate in their burdens. The phrase ‘caught in sin’ really makes me worried about my life as a whole because I can think back on separate actions where I did something I knew was not the correct thing to do, but did not get caught which did not bring about punishment and I learned nothing from the situation. These past situations sort of make me think “what is coming for me?” because I did do wrong but was not caught. I find it hard to believe that the church would not look down upon someone who is caught in the act of sin especially in those times because I know today an example would be of a teen pregnancy who gets terrible look from the church members.

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  3. Thinking Through Paul mentions that, “by ‘flesh’, Paul is not referring to human bodies; instead, by this term, he describes the human penchant to live self-interested lives” (TTP 103). The flesh is of a self-interested nature, it is a promoter and pleaser of self. Paul exhorts us, “-walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16). So, while I certainly agree that we must examine ourselves before taking a speck out of a brothers eye, for it could cause more destruction to both of your lives. Paul said, “If we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way” (1 Corinthians 11:31). We can conclude that self-examination is crucial to that of a believers life. However, is this self micro-managing that of the Spirit? isn’t that Lawful living?

    The key to these questions is walking in the Spirit. “For the law of Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Note that Galatians 6:1 says, “If another believer is overcome by his sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person.” The way of walking in the Spirit in this is bottom line loving them more than you do yourself, that’s humility and I would say that is certainly part of the Law of Christ.

    This really would transform the church because it is us cooperating with God’s will, and God’s got BIG plans for the world. Fear, shame, guilt, pride, it is all self-focused. But when we put our affection towards Christ amazing influence is brought forth!

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  4. This is such an important topic. People are so quick to judge one another and put their hands in situations that do not need to be tampered with. This also will lead to gossip of the people around them, where it is clearly not their business at all. We need to be careful when we carry each other’s burdens because this can turn into something where someone might be trying to help for their own selfishness and motive to give improper advice. A believer must go in with pure intentions of leading them closer to Christ and removing the baggage and chains on them.

    If this were to be practiced regularly, the church would be completed transformed. To clarify, by the church, I mean the complete body of Christ. We would not only be building up ourselves to the fullest capacity, but also others, because of our clear view on who we are and what we personally need to work on. Gentle restoration begins with loving the other person, and truly caring for their personal wellbeing and their relationship with Christ (Longenecker 95). As Paul talks about edifying the church in all ways, this means calling one another out, with love and gentleness. This means remembering the grace of God on each of our lives and applying that grace to the relationships around us. The church would become more authentic and be filled with love and grace for one another in every aspect.

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  5. While reading this post I thought of the passage in Matthew 7 about first removing the plank out of your own eye before removing the speck from your brother’s eye. I also thought of 1 Thessalonians 5:11 where Paul says to encourage and build one another up. As Christians, it is our job to show Christ’s love to everyone around us, including (and sometimes most needing) within our own congregation. Living in step with God is not easy, temptations almost seem stronger and having a unified body of believers to help you through can make a world of difference. Though we need to build and encourage each other, we need to make sure we are doing so through the Holy Spirit. In Galatians chapter 5, Paul mentions the act of the flesh which Longenecker describes as, “human penchant to live self-interested lives” (103). Because of this natural sinful nature, it takes a “resolute intention to walk with the Spirit everday” (Longenecker, 103). Along with that resolute intention, we need to self -examine ourselves to make sure we are truly walking with the Spirit. Like P. Long states above, Paul’s concern for the Galatians was their own self-deception, and with that, we need to have a balance between self-examination and gentle restoration. I think if the church practiced this balance on a daily basis and it was truly lived out every day, we would have a more loving and welcoming presence within our congregations. I also think Christians have a bad rap about being hypocrites within our society today and I believe that this balance would be a cure for that view. With the church fully living out this balance I believe more people would be open to the Gospel and God’s love because the church would be representing it wholly.

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  6. There is a fine line between being non-judgmental towards others and becoming tolerant or even condoning sin. Firstly, we are all sinners and haven fallen short of perfection (3:23) The only human being who never sinned was the son of God, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:22) In regards to being non-judgmental toward others, we are told in the gospel of Matthew that we should not point out the speck of dust in another’s eye while we ignore the log in our own (Matthew 7:3). However, we know from the book of Hebrews that if a man or woman deliberately or willfully continues to sin after receiving the knowledge of Jesus Christ, Jesus’ atonement no longer exists for them, and they are essentially rejecting God, as well as trampling His name under foot (Hebrews 10:26-31). Sin, followed by true remorse and repentance is the mark of a true believer. Sinning once is a mistake. Willfully sinning is a decision, that decision being that the individual has chosen to reject God.
    This is not to say that all will backslide at one time or another. However, if this is the pattern of ones life, rather than the random exception or stumble, it is clear what is going on: that they have chosen to follow Satan instead of Jesus Christ. We are also instructed in what to do in situations like this, again from the gospel of Matthew. Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. But if they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church, and if they still refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector”. Rebuke others in love, to draw them back to God, but do not tolerate sin to such an extent that they draw you or others away from God, or if they refuse to even listen to you or others.

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  7. It is important that we do “self-checks” often (without condemning ourselves), making ourselves aware of our sins and how we can move forward and grow in Christ. We must do this often rather than analyzing fellow believers lifestyles because if we begin to judge others for their sins or become obsessive over “fixing” people, then we will be putting ourselves on a pedestal of self-righteousness. I believe this is a problem in the church and I have observed it before where people are so focused on what their brothers and sisters are doing wrong that they aren’t even realizing their own sins (one being judgment AND gossip)! We will not help anyone by looking for faults in them, but if we are aware of our own faults, we can grow and learn how to help our brothers and sisters when they go through similar struggles with sin. For example, if someone struggles with the sin of lust, instead of looking for sin in other peoples lives, they can focus on their own struggle and learn what God has to say about it so if a brother or sister in Christ comes to them for advice, they can speak truth into them from personal experience. We must be gentle with our brothers and sisters, showing them love and allowing them to come to us when they are struggling. Then we can respectfully speak God’s truth to them without judgment. Longenecker writes that “Paul expresses the character of the Christ who comes alive in him: that one is characterized by love and self-giving, or perhaps, love defined by self-giving” (Longenecker, 94). We must be aware of our own struggles and sins first! As it says in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

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  8. If this balance between self-examination and gentle restoration were practiced regularly, how would it transform the church?
    I found this topic very important because I may have said something like this in the past your not really in trouble unless you get caught which is completely wrong. This how some may think thought to be young where your reckless and do not really care about much. Eventually, those burdens will catch up to you and you will feel guilty you just have to do what is right. The balance between self-examination and gentle restoration were practiced regularly it would transform the church to help us become better as we mature and begin to do what is right individually and each other.

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    • Great insights Alicia. I agree that if we could practice the balance between self-examination and gentle restoration regularly, the church would be transformed. I find in my own life that it is easier to talk about my problems to people that I know have problems of their own rather than talk to people who try and make it look like they have every sin in their life solved. I think if we practiced this balance that it would make the church more transparent and approachable. If the church was more open about the sins of those who consider themselves a part of it, then more people would go find people who have overcome the same sin they are dealing with and receive help on overcoming it. The second part of Galatians 6:1 tells us to be careful though, as we can also be tempted when trying to help someone else. After reading this it makes me wonder if a third person should be brought into mix so that if another person starts to fall off course there is someone else to keep each other on track of overcoming, or avoiding a sin. Overall I think we as Christians really need to focus on not trying to make everyone else think that we have never sinned, but instead be okay with letting people see that we too have problems that we are dealing with. I think this is one of the hardest things to do as Christians, but I believe it would have one of the greatest impacts on those who are caught in sin.

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  9. At the beginning of the post it talks a lot about how the church needs to be gentle about how they approach correcting someone’s sin. I think this is something that Christians often get a bad name for. We are often viewed as people who want to go around just judging and fixing people, when we should be the ones who are showing the most love. John 13:34 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another”. It can be easy to look at someone’s sin and view them differently, but we need to remember that we all have sins in our lives, they just might not be out to the public yet. I think this is what it means in Galatians 6:1 when it says that we need to restore those who are caught in sin gently. It is not going to help that person caught in sin at all to be judged and made to feel ashamed, at that point in the journey they need to be shown love and care, and that is what we are being told in Galatians. I also think that this is not Paul recommending us to help people this way, but instead it is a command. This is our job as those in the Spirit, we are to be the ones who care for people, and that people can trust to go to for help with dealing with sin.

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  10. From the very first sin of mankind, humans have been more interested in what others have done wrong than accepting the wrong they have committed. In the garden of Eden, Adam had done wrong, yet blamed Eve, while Eve blamed the serpent; yet neither of them accepted the sin they themselves had committed (Genesis 3:11-13, ESV). This is a continual theme throughout the Bible – man avoiding the sins that he has committed. This is why the idea of first addressing your own shortcomings and then the sins of others has been such a prevalent idea found within scripture. In Matthew 7:1 it says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”, the idea continuing in verse 5, describing how we should take the plank out of our own eye before attempting to remove the speck from another’s. While this has been an issue throughout Bible times, it has also been prevalent today. I have encountered many people throughout my time in high school and college that believed that Christians were just hypocritical people, judging the behavior and lives of those around them. How far from the truth! Yet in their experience, Christians had exemplified this behavior numerous times, causing them to back away from the church altogether.While not all Christians are like this, I believe that we can all point out our flaws more than we do. We avoid it because it’s uncomfortable and intimidating, while it could transform the church atmosphere, and the image that is being sent to the world. We need to live our lives in step with the Spirit, and in constant communication with him (Longenecker & Still, 2014). By doing this, we will be able to practice humility rather than judgement, drawing the broken and hurting to the church rather than causing them to flee. We will be able to have closer relationships with those within the church, accepting the flaws within ourselves, and sharing our experiences to help the congregation grow as a whole.

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  11. In today’s society everyone seems to be obsessed with what everyone else is doing. When we need to focus on the sin in our own lives. I relate this passage to gossip, because I feel as though gossip is such a prevalent sin in the church today. If we were to stop this sin and focusing on the loving one another the atmosphere of the church would be totally changed.

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  12. Yes, I definitely think we should have a period of self-examination in order to realign ourselves with Jesus. Sometimes one can get carried away by living a life contrary to Jesus which can have negative ties to how one goes about viewing certain situations. Therefore, it’s important to buckle down for a sec and examine our behaviors to see if they are aligned with the attributes of Jesus. Self-discipline is needed and if everyone in the church took the time to examine their well being before interfering with the lives of others, I believe there could be a lot more acceptance in the church. Just as there would be more unity if people accepted that they are not perfect and disciplined themselves. One of the assumptions Longenecker makes about Paul’s theme in Galatia was that no one can observe the law worthy enough (Longenecker, 98). I think if people were to meditate on these words given by Longenecker people would have a different outlook on restoration. Having accepted that you are not perfect allows people to better understand and communicate with those who are restoring their life in Christ. If this Notion was adopted in the church I believe the church will grow rapidly and more people will have the courage to change their lives. I say courage because most people have a tendency to judge a new follower in Christ which can cripple a person’s will to change.

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