Summary: This is how we live as God’s people. 1.) We help restore those caught in sin. 2.) We help carry one another’s burdens. 3.) We support our pastor and the work of this congregation. 4.) We do what is good.
Why do we as a people want to support public schools, various health programs, water and sewer services, and Social Security? You might be thinking, “Well, it’s because I have to pay taxes.” Or on a day like today, July 4th, you might say that you are doing your patriotic duty as an American citizen.
But there’s more to it than that. We began programs, such as health and public education, to invest in the well-being of our nation. If we Americans are healthy and educated, instead of sickly and ignorant, it’s for our own good and for the good all Americans.
Think about it. If we didn’t invest in our nation, life would be a mess. Many of us would’ve probably already died of some illness. We wouldn’t have developed new drugs and vaccines. If we didn’t invest in our nation, thugs would rule the land, and the weak would be crushed like cockroaches and vermin.
So our investment in society has been worth it--although that investment is not easy or cheap. Even more, sometimes it may even take a couple of generations before we recognize the return on our investment.
Life within Christ’s Church works in a similar way. The life of Christian freedom is not a life of laziness or a free-for-all, just like life in a free America is not supposed to be laziness or a free-for-all.
It’s true the Apostle Paul hammers home that we are free from the law: The law that condemns us to death, the law of trying to earn God’s approval by our behavior. But we do have another “law” to guide us: The law of Christ, the law of love. Now this law doesn’t save us, but it does show how our new self--given us in baptism, strengthened and enlivened in the Lord Supper--is to live.
This law of Christ, as Paul puts it, is like paying taxes, but good ones. We need to understand the Apostle’s words, not as something restrictive or constraining, but like “taxes” that act more like an investment in God’s Kingdom.
Paul says, “Brothers, if someone is discovered in some sin, those of you who are spiritual should restore that person in a Spirit of gentleness.” All right, pastor, but what does this have to do with investing in the Kingdom of God?
It goes like this. One way we can invest in God’s Kingdom is to restore a fallen brother when a sin has ensnared him. But we are to restore him gently.
But that’s challenging for us, because many of us find this painful to do. We’d rather say nothing, hoping the sins go away all by themselves. Or, to the other extreme, we may make his sins known to everyone else but to the one ensnared in sin. Both responses are sinful. Both responses demand repentance.
To restore someone gently does take some finesse: you must confront the sin, not to degrade the sinner, but to restore him. Paul even makes a point to say this: “In a Spirit of gentleness.” This means that restoring a fallen brother is the will of the Spirit. (Chrysostom)
This is nothing new. God tells us that He does “not take pleasure in the death of the wicked,” but that He, instead, prefers the wicked “to turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 18:23).
Jesus went seeking after sinners. He ate with them and talked with them. To the paralyzed man, whom Jesus healed by the pool, He said, “You are now well. Sin no more, or something worse might happen to you” (John 5:14). To the adulterous woman, Jesus said, “Go now, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). The Holy Spirit also leads us to do the same: To help restore a fallen Christian.
We do this--striving that God’s saving work may always come to a good end! God loves us and so He sent His Son to save us. Jesus came, and died to give us life. The Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus. Jesus brings us to God the Father. That’s the Triune God acting to save you and keep you in the faith. And faith receives and benefits from God’s saving work.
Yet, if we don’t intervene to stop a brother from plummeting into a sinful way of life, then his heart can become hardened, and he can fall away from the faith. When we let that happen, and do nothing to stop his descent into hell, we have not faithfully lived out God’s life of love. That’s why we work to restore a brother gently--to keep him in the one, true faith.
Paul continues, “Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is only fooling himself. Everyone must examine his own actions, and then he can boast about his own accomplishments and not about those of someone else. For everyone must carry his own load.”