After exhorting us to “walk in the Spirit” so that we would “not fulfil the lust of the flesh,” (Galatians 5:16), and telling us about the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), Paul gives us these words of exhortation:
(1) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
(2) Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Fact of the matter is, we’re all going to mess up. We’re all going to run into crisis, either as a result of our own actions or from the changes that life naturally brings. When that happens to one of our number, Paul wants us to do two things: remember that brother (or sister) and remember ourselves.
Paul describes this fallen brother as one who is “overtaken in a fault.” The word translated “fault” means to “side slip,” or to have a lapse caused by intentional or unintentional error. Whatever the cause of the crisis, the task of helping that stumbling brother is a spiritual one first. This is why Paul limits the task to those “which are spiritual.” Why does he do this? Because our natural tendency when we see others stumble or fall is to react in self-righteous pride. “What was he thinking?” “He should have done ‘this’ or ‘that’ and it never would have happened.” “I never would have done such-and-so.” We want to spend so much time analyzing the problem that we lose sight of the one in need. Imagine what would have happened if, when Peter walked on the water and then began to falter, the Lord rebuked him before He saved him? We’d be short a disciple. And what do we often do when we look at that passage? We criticize Peter for his lack of faith rather than the fact that he was the only disciple with enough faith to get out of the boat in the first place (Matthew 14:22-33). It takes a mature believer to know what needs to happen first when dealing with a struggling brother.
Paul also exhorts those helping a fallen brother to consider themselves lest they also be tempted (Galatians 6:1b). It’s possible to over-empathize with a struggling brother and lose our objectiveness. There are also situations where the one in need can pull others into his temptation with him. When EMT’s and paramedics are trained, they are constantly reminded to assess the scene before going in. If you rush straight into a situation without taking an objective view of the circumstances you can find yourself a part of the problem instead of the solution. It is important for those conducting the rescue to maintain their objectivity and to keep the big picture in mind.
The opening word of Paul’s exhortation is “brethren” and that sets the tone for the entire endeavor. Whatever the situation and however messy and painful it may be, we need to remember the one we are dealing with is still a brother.