Throughout redemptive history, that is, history in the Bible and throughout church history up to the present, God has always shown Himself to be a God of grace—regenerating, renewing, reconciling, reforming, reviving and restoring. Sometimes God acts directly and sometimes He uses other circumstances or people as a means to accomplish these things. He sovereignly and providentially brings about His divine purposes for His own pleasure and glory and for the benefit and blessing of His people. In Galatians 6:1-2, Paul speaks to the church about the work of restoration and bearing burdens. Though his specific focus is dealing with someone caught in sin, the application of the principles are broader. His outline for this process is simple: Verse 1: Pick them up; Verse 2: Hold them up.
Verse 1: Pick Them Up
Notice the language here—if someone is “caught” in a sin. It doesn’t mean that a person was sinning and they got caught by someone else who saw them. The word carries the idea of being “caught off guard;” some translations use the word “overtaken” or even “trapped.”
Paul says it is the responsibility of the “spiritual” to restore this person who has fallen into sin. Sometimes you can read this verse wrongly. You can read it this way: if someone is caught in a sin, you who are really spiritual, the super-Christians, should restore him gently. It is comfortable to read it this way because, since you are not a super-Christian, it excuses you from being involved.
However, the word spiritual in this verse does not mean super-Christians; it means those who are walking in the Spirit. So this verse speaks to the whole church, not only to those who are in leadership. Since all believers are commanded to be filled with the Spirit and to walk in the Spirit, every Christian is being addressed here by Paul—including you. You, as a Spirit-filled Christian, are to restore the one caught in sin, and it is to be done gently, not severely or cruelly, so that healing and real restoration can take place.
The end of verse one contains a warning, reminding us that any of us can fall, any of us can find ourselves in need of this kind of support.
Verse 2: Hold Them Up
The second call to believers is to carry each other’s burdens, to help shoulder those things that are weighing down another believer whether they are trials or temptations, giving in to sin’s power, guilt or consequences, anxiety, grief, illness—any burden resulting from sinfulness or fallenness. You are to hold them up, to help carry their burdens.
The ability to share with and care for the burden of another person, to know and understand his/her need, presupposes there is a relationship. The church tends to be an unsafe place to reveal your struggles and weaknesses. Believers need to work to make the church an accepting place where people who need holding up receive help and healing rather than judgment when they reveal that they are struggling. When a burden is revealed, the church should flock to that person to provide the support they need to successfully carry that burden.
This restoring and bearing of burdens takes place in community. Every situation calls for different gifts and the multi-faceted gifts of the Body of Christ equip the people of God to minister effectively. When the burden is born by the community, the Body, each can participate as they are gifted.
When Cain killed Abel and was confronted by God, Cain asked the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It was a rhetorical question but while Cain thought the answer was “No,” from God’s point of view the answer was, “Yes.” That is also the answer for the Christian today—you are your brother’s keeper. Each one has the responsibility for the restoration and recovery in grace of every other one. Each is related to all the rest. Be, by grace, one who will pick up and hold up those people the Lord has put into your sphere of influence; help them see the glory in the grind.