When we begin the last chapter of Galatians, it seems to be starting off well. Paul says that the who are spiritual should restore someone who struggles with temptation (notice he doesn’t say sin – more on that in a minute). Yet, when you come to the last statement of the passage, you read Paul saying that everyone should bear their own load. What the heck? Am I supposed to help, or not help? Are we to bear one another’s burdens, or examine our own work?
This makes me to think of the crucifixion of Jesus, even. Did He carry His own cross, as Matthew and John say? Or, did Jesus have help from this Simon fellow, as Mark and Luke say? I’ll try to give some advice, even if the truth is that I find this passage perplexing as well lol.
If someone is struggling with a sin, then let you who are spiritual do all that you can to help them bear that temptation and overcome. Yet, if it isn’t “temptation” in this sense, but is rather the following of an utterly different Gospel, a Gospel of works, then each man must examine his own work. For you who are attempting to stop smoking, or quit drinking, or break the porn addiction, or find healthier lifestyles in eating and exercising, then you need to find someone who is able to wrestle alongside of you. Find someone who you know to be spiritual, and not simply a pastor or elder. This is one of the biggest problems in our day. With all of the people in “leadership”, I don’t know them well enough to know whether I can trust them. And, it only takes that one time that you confess a fault to someone, and they then gossip it around town, that you no longer trust anyone.
We need to be incredible careful and wise with who we reveal our faults to. They need to be someone that we know will have gentleness and compassion on us, but at the same time are spiritual enough to perceive past just the struggle.
What do I mean?
You aren’t smoking because you’re addicted to cigarettes. You’re not playing video games for many hours into the night on multiple days a week because you simply enjoy video games. You’re not looking at porn, or flirting with boys/girls, or seeking intimate relationships because you enjoy the feeling. There is something deeper here. Before you ever smoked your first cigarette, you never had the need for a cigarette. Before you lost your virginity, you never needed sex. You never needed alcohol to have a good time and party before you first started drinking. What has changed that you now look for it?
This is the issue behind the issue. They who are spiritual can help you wrestle that one though, and in wrestling together, to overcome the original problem that led to the addiction. It might be that there are wounds that haven’t healed, wounds that you’ve forgotten of, but when you start to attempt to wage war against the demonic voices and the lies that you’ve believed, the wound is uncovered, and now you’re reminded. It takes someone who is able to stand with you, and not accuse you, in these moments. This is why Paul charges they that are spiritual to restore their brother with gentleness, and not to assail them.
In regard to the other issue, in examining ourselves, notice the context of the statement. “If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” What are you saying Paul? He’s saying that there is a mindset of exaltedness, one that comes from a knowledge that puffs up, in which we can live and believe, simple because we are under law. You who are spiritual, who think yourself at a place to help they who are struggling with temptation: Why are you capable? Is it that you don’t commit the same sins they do, and therefore you’re at a place of higher devotion and holiness? Or, is it because, by the grace of God, you’ve been given a disposition that is servant-like? Are you at a place to better help others because you’re “more spiritual”, understanding “spiritual warfare”, and “prayer”, and other such tactics to cause for this “weaker brother” to be brought into maturity like you are? Or, are you able to recognize that apart from the grace of God, none of us are righteous, none of us are able, and therefore it is only through the grace and power of God that we will have ability to help them overcome?
Here is the dividing line, dear children. I could go off into the various Scripture references to bring you to seeing how Paul uses this language all over his epistles, but what is more important to me is your freedom. For you who are free, and who live in that freedom, and who fight to remain in that freedom, help they who are overcoming. Notice that Paul doesn’t call it sin. According to the Gospel, we’ve died with Christ, and we aren’t any longer “sinners”. The “sinner” is dead; I am alive in Christ. What now must happen is that I need to learn how to live again. I must relearn what it means to walk, to talk, to live, and to move, and to have my being in God instead of self. That is not a process of putting to death the old man, for the old man has always been dead. That is a process of learning to live out of the new man, the one who is truly alive. It takes time, but they who are mature should be able to perceive what is necessary to bring the young into maturity.