September 9, 2020·Ben McEntee
How should we treat other fellow Christians? This appears to be a straightforward question, with an easy answer, but it’s not the answer that’s difficult to come up with. It’s the action that reflects the answer that presents a challenge. A more difficult question is this: How should we treat other Christians when they have sinned or if we believe them to be in error?
If we were to seek the wisdom of the world to address these concerns, we would be led to the murky waters of subjective morality and how the world attempts to individually determine what is right and wrong. Thankfully, as Christians, we do not stand on the world’s fractured, every-man-for-himself type of wisdom. No, we find sure footing on the solid foundation of God’s Word. We find solid footing on the beautiful inner workings of the Holy Spirit, which lead us to follow the voice of our one true Shepherd. I don’t define my own sense of right and wrong; God has already determined that, and His credentials to make that judgment rest on Him being a holy and just Creator.
In Galatians 6, we’re given instructions on how we should respond when we find another believer “caught in any transgression.” Here, Paul, with the care of a spiritual physician, guides us to be “spiritual” (meaning to be “in step with the Spirit,” as Galatians 5:25 states), to “restore them in a spirit of gentleness” (vs. 1), and to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (vs. 2). The bearing of others’ burdens is a noble aim for anyone, but for the Christian, this act takes a deeper and wider scope. It’s an outpouring of our all-encompassing relationship with Jesus Christ. The motive in bearing the weight of others is tied to Jesus’ command for us to “love one another” (John 13:34).
As Christians, we’re called to bear the sins, sorrows, errors, and temptations of others and gently guide them to “all good things” in God’s Word, thereby lovingly bringing an offender to a place where they can receive the healing they need. To accomplish this, we are drawn to an inward assessment of ourselves. As Paul writes, we are to “keep watch on ourselves” (vs. 1), and “if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (vs. 3). An inflated sense of self is toxic to the deep relationships that God wants for us. The remedy for self-deception is acknowledging our own weaknesses. This becomes a strong motivator for us to consider the weaknesses of others, which gives rise to empathy in our hearts. It restores our understanding of our mutual need for confession, for forgiveness, for redemption, and for wholeness.
In a culture that is incessantly examining and accusing the actions of others, Christianity stands in stark contrast. We are instructed by God’s Word to “restore in a spirit of gentleness.” Legalism, whether it be worldly or wrapped in the religiosity of Christianity, brings no healing, no reconciliation, no restoration. Instead, it breeds self-deception in our own hearts and contempt for our own neighbors (the very neighbors Jesus instructed us to love).
As you go about your week, in the words you say and type, in the images you post, and in your actions, remember to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (vs. 10).
Pastor Ben McEntee