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. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. –Galatians 6:1-5
So far, at first glance, verses 1-5 sound almost like a contradiction, for first Paul says to help others carry their burdens, but then he says that everyone should carry their own load. But it’s not a contradiction. In fact, I believe he’s talking about three different kinds of sinners/fallen brethren:
- Those who are caught it sin and need correction:
This is about keeping a fellow Christian accountable for his (or her) behavior. So Paul tells them to rebuke them gently. Gently because if you rebuke them harshly, no doubt they’ll rebel against you, God, the Church, etc. and fall deeper into their sins (for as mentioned in chapter 5, the flesh and Spirit are in constant conflict). So if you turn from the Spirit and close your eyes to the Truth, you’ll open your eyes to the flesh’s desires, which are sin.
So rebuke them gently, helping them back to correction. But beware that you yourself don’t fall into their sin. For example, guys:
Say your brother went to a strip club. Don’t go in after him alone, lest you be tempted to stay. Instead, bring others (preferably women who won’t be tempted) to go in and bring him back out.
- Those who refuse correction:
He thinks he’s in the right and is “all that”. Many cultic leaders, for example, famous preachers, or just people who think they’re the only ones who are correct, often fall into this type. Even when they’re in the wrong, they’ll argue with those in the right, not willing to listen or learn for themselves or be corrected. They’ll then teach others his incorrect understandings of the Bible, either leading many astray, or just away. Therefore, they’ll carry their own load (or they should then carry their own load). This is a job for God to deal with. If you try to help, either they won’t let you, or they’ll flatten you with it.
- Those who think they’re strong enough to resist sin:
Though we need to be careful of the first 2 examples, I believe that we especially need to be careful not to be among those of this one. This is the one who intentionally steps into a dangerous situation, believing they’re strong to resist falling into sin. But Paul explains that this is most dangerous, for it’s when we think we’re strongest that we are actually the weakest. For example, look at David and Goliath. Goliath mocked the little boy David, and even let his guard down because he didn’t expect David to have any chance at beating him. But when he laughed, he revealed a vulnerable spot of his head, allowing David’s stone to hit him head on (no pun intended) and knock him down. From there, David ran up to him, unsheathed his own sword, and cut off his head with it. Don’t be over confident. You’ll never know when you’re leaving yourself vulnerable until you’ve already been stricken.
(Picture courtesy of professional photographer, Kenneth Schabow)