Summary: There are two seemingly automatic reactions to seeing sin in the life of someone else. One is to avoid them. The other is to judge. In Galatians 6 we begin to see a third alternative. It's harder, but much more loving and effective.
The main theme of Galatians is about whether legalism, in the form of the Jewish law, is required for a Christian. Paul’s answer is an emphatic “no!” Legalism, in general, is superimposing an external set of rules or expectations on yourself or others—even Biblical rules or principals. Legalism says “I can do it myself if you just tell me what to do.” Legalism is actually a very childish and immature way of living. As a child you have to ask whether everything is okay—crossing the street, putting your hand on a hot stove, playing video games instead of studying. Our parents had to instill values in us so that when we grew up we would no longer need to call them every day to ask what we should fix for dinner. Sadly, we treat our relationship with God that same way. We want Him to tell us whether to turn right or left, go here or there, say this or that. There is a better way.
We’ve been talking about the internal transformation of character that takes place when you have a relationship with God. The goal is to think so much like God that you don’t necessarily need to ask at every turn whether this is a good choice or not.
So eventually we can ask ourselves: “Will this decision enhance or detract from my relationship with God?” “Will this response enhance or detract from my ability to reflect the character of God to others?” “Am I seeking to satisfy this desire in way that would be pleasing to God and in a way He would be proud of?”
The more transparent, honest, self-reflective, and pliable we are to God, the more access we give Him to change our character and thought patterns. This results in a greater ability to make wise decisions without having to find a Bible verse for every turn in the road. We still rely completely on the Lord for everything, but it becomes easier to hear the voice of the Spirit because our thoughts sound more and more like the Spirit’s. The Bible then, is not a rule book or a guide book, but the story of man’s fall and God’s rescue and redemption. It reveals the character of God in broad brush strokes as an outline, not a playbook. Paul said: “Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 1:13-14) (“hold on to” is the Greek word: “echo” – to hold, “pattern” is “after a sketch”)
But what happens when we fail? The truth of the matter is we obey God imperfectly and we think like God imperfectly. The Apostle John said that if we say we have no sin we’re deceiving ourselves (1 John 1:8). As individuals, when we mess up, we need to “with the Spirit keep walking” (Gal 5:16). Fess up to God, ask for His cleansing, and move on.
But what happens when someone else blows it? There are two normal reactions: one is to avoid them and the second is to judge them. Neither really works very well. Paul here at the beginning of Chapter 6 offers us a third alternative: restore them because that’s what He did for us.
Christians are jokingly known as the only army that shoots its own wounded, but that’s just what can happen if we take the prideful attitude that “we’re better than you.”
The goal of dealing with failure should always be to “restore” and it should be done “gently” not harshly. “Caught” in a sin is a good way to put it. The old nature will assert itself unless we “put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom 8:13). Sin catches us and entraps us. Our goal is to help spring another brother or sister from that trap. “Caught” can also mean when a sin is detected by another. There comes a point when you simply cannot ignore something that’s happened. You must deal with it.
The idea of restoration has several meanings: “setting a broken bone”, “mending a broken fish net”, or “refitting a ship after a difficult journey.” Our responsibility to others is to set a life towards healing, repair brokenness and help put back that which has been torn off by sin. This kind of work requires that we not only stand by the person but actually get in there and get involved. This might mean spending time discipling them, encouraging them, crying with them, and working with them to fix brokenness their sin has brought about.
Paul says that it is up to the “mature” to do this. This refers to those of us who are walking with the Spirit, and mirroring more and more that character of God through the Holy Spirit.