For the last several weeks, our pastor has been talking about “fruit of the spirit” out of Galatians 5. Yesterday he talked about “goodness and kindness”. Galatians 6:1-3 has been a theme throughout the series and was mentioned again yesterday.
This particular portion of scripture has been a puzzle to me since first reading it. Here it is in the NIV:
1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.
Greg and I were driving to Seattle yesterday and the subject turned to this passage and my questions of what exactly does it mean entered into a long debate. It seems clear that we should always restore a fallen brother or sister gently when caught in sin – but after that it is stated “But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted”. Tempted with the same sin? Tempted with some other sin? What exactly is Paul saying here?
I researched parallel versions of this passage and most of them have the word tempted in them. However – it is unclear how the person restoring is actually tempted.
Two thoughts here:
1) Tempted by association with the person involved in the sin – such as a counseling situation that is unhealthy with no boundaries in place – allowing inappropriate sharing and confiding – therefore allowing the person “helping” to be brought down – even though more “spiritual”.
2) Tempted by “spiritual” self-righteous pride – looking down on others who are not as good and strong as they – blasting them for weaknesses and sins that are so far beneath them. Creating their own “blind-side” for helping others – devoid of the proper amount of compassion and empathy for those fallen. This is a “set-up” for failure in many areas – not necessarily the same one.
One thing is very clear. Paul says to “be careful” or this will happen to you.
I was thinking that the true meaning was more like the first reason – and Greg was leaning toward the second one. Until I found this passage in the New Living:
1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer[a] is overcome by some sin, you who are godly[b] should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.
This seems to support #1 above. And here it is in the Message:
1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out.
This is probably my favorite version of all. I love how it emphasizes keeping your critical comments to yourself – and saying you might be needing forgiveness. And that forgiveness might be needed for many different things.
So it seems we do not have the exact meaning – still, I believe that the heart of that passage is whenever you confront someone caught in sin – or feel they are doing something inappropriate, you must be careful how you approach it – very carefully and lovingly – being sure to remember that you too are frail, weak and prone to sin and sinful situations all the time. And you certainly are no judge and jury in and of yourself. Be careful not to look down on those who slip and fall – or it will come back to bite you – maybe not that particular sin – but one that you don’t see coming. So be ON GUARD – and live humbly and authentically with others. Most sin happens because it hits our blind side.
When was the last time you were judged harshly and not lovingly from someone? How did it make you feel? Did you wonder (like I did) when it would be their turn to be tempted with sin because of their harsh words of judgement and criticism?
Remember that God is the final judge – and that He knows your heart best. Make things right with Him today – and don’t worry about others. It will take care of itself in the end.
- Galatians 6:1-10 (markallenwhite.wordpress.com)