“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.”
When Paul speaks in Galatians 6 about bearing one another’s burdens, I don’t think he means for our burden bearing on a friend’s behalf to be that as a comforter. Granted, much comfort is extended when we stand shoulder to shoulder with a friend and offer consolation in their struggle. However, in Galatians, I think that what Paul means is that we are to carry the weight of what it costs us to continue in relationship with the one “who is caught in sin.”
To be in relationship with a sinner costs. Sinners are rude, intemperate, self-seeking, deceptive, and callous. To move into the world of a sinner is unsafe. Paul warns us that as we seek the gentle restoration of our brother, we should take care. Paul’s warning of carefulness is not so much because of the sinner’s danger to us, but of our danger to ourselves. Why? We too, are sinners.
“Watch yourself,” Paul says so that we be careful not to think that we are any better than they. As we move into another’s life, we are warned to test our own motives, thoughts, and judgments lest we too should fall. Being watchful of our own heart and apprehending the mercy extended to us in Christ, we, who are spiritual, restore. In the process of restoration, we “take the hit” for the knowledge of their sin, stubbornness, and insensitivity. “Taking the hit” — that is fulfilling the “law of Christ” — laying down one’s life for another
Paul, in speaking of our burdens and the burdens of those who obey in faith, says that each one is to “carry his own load.” Paul is saying, “Christian, it is good for you to take responsibility for your own actions, and it is good for you to bear with one another the consequences of their actions.” This means that the call to ministry, humility, and service is to every Christian not merely the strong or spiritually successful. Every Christian can be as Christ, each can humble themselves, can test their motives, and can rely on Christ.
The danger in our carrying for those “caught in sin” is that we think because we didn’t get caught that there is no cost for us to be a Christian. When we forget the burden that Jesus bore, we become harsh, judgmental, and proud. We forget the cross. Jesus said the night before his crucifixion, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13);” this is the spirit of true burden bearing friendship.
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