Caring for the physical body is a natural thing. If we are wounded we do not have to be persuaded that we must care for our body so that it will be healed and restored. We do not need to be convinced that the other members of our body should bear the burden of the injured member. For example if the right ankle is injured the left leg will without hesitation bear the extra burden of the weight of the whole body. This is how the physical body naturally cares for itself.
Likewise, the Church has a responsibility to care for its body, which is the body of Christ. While we see this truth throughout the scriptures it is clearly and concisely set forth in Galatians 6:1-5. At the end of chapter five Paul described what it looks like to walk by the Spirit, displaying: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-25). He then admonished believers to remain humble and not provoke or envy one another (Gal 5:26). Rather, as he explains in our passage we should humbly seek to restore one another and bear one another’s burdens.
It is the responsibility of the spiritual person, the one who is walking in the spirit and thus exhibiting the fruit of the spirit, to restore the brother who has fallen into sin (vs.1). This is not to say that we must be perfect before we can restore a brother, but only that we must be seeking the Lord ourselves. Neither does he Apostle mean that it is the job of the spiritual person to judge or condemn the fallen brother, thus the note to “Keep watch on yourself, lest you to be tempted.”
The spiritual person realizes that apart from the grace of God they too are capable of falling into sin at any moment. The term “falling into sin” is indeed accurate because Paul uses a word that portrays just that, a person sinning because of weakness, inattention, or a false view of their own strength. The picture is not of the hardened sinner willfully acting in sin; even the most spiritual among must realize that we are all prone to wander and fall into sin, thus we must in a spirit of gentleness seek to restore our brother or sister.
The concept of restoration is significant. When a member of the physical body is injured we seek its healing and restoration so that it might once again fulfill its role in the body. Its complete restoration will allow the entire body to function as it should. This is also true in the body of Christ. Our goal is not punishment or condemnation; that is not our concern. We are to be about the business of restoration in a spirit of gentleness fueled by humility.
As we seek to restore a fallen brother we must likewise bear their burdens (vs. 2). Certainly this means we assist them in overcoming their sin and living a victorious life. However, I believe more is in view here. The idea of bearing one another’s burdens is much bigger than simply helping one another overcome sin. It involves the whole of life. The spiritual person understands the reality of their participation in the body of Christ and thus seeks to bear the burdens of weaker members in order that the entire body will function properly and fulfill its mission in the world.
Paul states that bearing one another’s burdens will fulfill the law of Christ, which is summed up in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” If our bearing of burdens is to be reflective of the love Christ has for us then it must necessarily include more than helping one gain victory over sin. Indeed in his first epistle John says “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Thus, if we are to function properly within the body, we must love as Christ loved which will involve the death of self for the bearing of the burdens of others. This is what the spiritual person does.
One of the biggest obstacles to this kind of love and care within the church is pride (vs. 3). We are all prone to being deceived by it. We think we are better than others or that they are suffering because of their own sinfulness and are thus receiving their just rewards. However, the spiritual person is not deceived by pride. He realizes that he is nothing apart from the grace of God and therefore does not look down upon his neighbor who is fallen in sin or struggling under the weight of a heavy burden. He responds with meekness and love because he knows that this is the response he received from the Lord.
Pride is an easy response when we compare ourselves to our neighbor (vs.4). We can always find ways in which we are better, but this is not the case when we test ourselves in comparison to Christ. Comparing ourselves to Christ promotes humility and an understanding that anything good in us is a work of grace and the result of mercy. Thus, rather than boasting in our flesh as compared to our neighbor, we can boast in what Christ has done in us. Paul is not advocating an arrogant boasting in self because when compared to Christ, pride must flee. Instead his point is that the spiritual man can boast in all that Christ has done in him.
It would seem that Paul makes a shift in vs. 5 and contradicts himself. However, this is not at all the case. His point is that each believer will be accountable for how we bear our load. That is the load of restoring fallen brothers and sisters and the load of bearing their burdens. So each Christian will be judged by God for how faithful we are in these areas. If we are prideful and shirk these responsibilities because of self-love or some warped sense of superiority, we will be judged for our lack of faithfulness.
It’s clear that for Paul the church is to care for its members. For us this must be viewed on a local and global level. We are individual members of a local body that is itself, a member of a global body. Therefore, we must seek to restore fallen brothers and sisters and lovingly bear one another’s burdens both locally and globally. This requires humility, hard work, diligence, and most of all grace.