Burden Bearing 101

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted –  Galatians 6:1

What are Christians to do when their brother is overtaken by sin? Should they pity him, disregard him ignore him, criticize him, sequester him or spread rumors, or gossip about him? Doing nothing but minding one’s own business seems to be the going trend. It has been said, “the Christian army is the only one that shoots its wounded.”

Restore Your Brother

In Galatians 6:1 Christians are to “restore such a one” who has fallen for temptation. This command is in contrast with Galatians 5:26: “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Paul informs the Galatians saints just how they are to go about restoring their brother.

Who is Addressed?

The command to restore the sinner is given to “Brethren.” When God asked Cain about his brother, Abel. Cain’s response, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). The answer is “Yes”. If he is your brother, then you are his keeper. Being members together in the family of God involves mutual obligations to the well-being of one another.

Who Has a Burden?

The subject of burden is “if a man is overtaken”. The meaning of “overtaken” indicates being overcome unexpectedly. It is not the idea of some overt, blatant choice to sin. Sometimes brethren are surprised that they have been caught by a temptation. The term has been used in a military situation where a stronger force has been surprisingly overtaken by a smaller force. It means being caught by sin not caught committing a sin.

What is the Burden?

The burden one is caught in is “in any trespass”. The term “trespass” is interchangeable with “sin”. He has wandered past the boundaries of God’s Law into a forbidden area. Even if it is by mistake or surprise at being caught up in this sin, the sinner is still not excused for his fault in the matter. Ignorance, giving into one’s weaknesses, following the crowd or neglecting to we watchful are not excuses.

Who is to Help with the Burden?

The one who is to help the sinner is “you who are spiritual”. Not all Christians are spiritual. There are those Christians who are carnal-minded, ignorant of spiritual things, those are not fully converted, and those who as hypocrites where spirituality as a thin veneer.

Restoring the lost brother is the task given to spiritually minded Christians. They are the ones with the vision to see the lost condition of the sinner, his value and need, and how to restore him. A blind saint is of little help to a fallen sinner. A spiritual man will manifest the fruits of the spirit in his life.

Notice the pronoun “you” is plural. This indicates that the task of restoration may require more than one person. A saint may fall into sin with no help from another sinner, but it may take the whole local body of Christ to assist in the restoring of his soul.

What should be done for the Burdened?

The end result the spiritual saint is after is to “restore such a one overtaken”. The term “restore” is an appropriate one for this context. It was used in the Greek for a broken bone to be reset or the mending of nets (Mark 1:19) or restoring a dislocated shoulder (Heb. 12:13). It can carry the idea of “putting back in proper order”, such as, refitting a ship at the docks following a long voyage. The faithful saints need to set the sinner right, help reset and mend him, and resupply his spiritual needs.

How Should it be Done?

The restoring of the brother needs to be done “in a spirit of gentleness”. The Holy Spirit is not being referred to here. Instead, it is referencing the proper attitude of the restorer. Specifically, he must respond to the fallen brother with gentleness. This is one of the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:23). It is not a spirit of indifference, rejection, criticism, slander or a “holier-than-thou” approach. Remember the world loves nothing more than to point out the failures of the righteous. They love to circle like sharks around a bleeding victim.

Those caught or surprised by falling for temptation are often embarrassed. A strong, negative approach may cause them to become overly defensive and/or humiliated. Furthermore, avoid being judgmental. Keep in mind the poem: “Don’t Judge too Hard”.

Pray don’t find fault with a man who limps
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the shoes he wears
Or struggles beneath his load.
There may be tacks in his shoes that hurt,
though hidden away from view.
Or the burden he hears, placed on your back,
Might cause you to stumble too.
Don’t be too harsh with a man who sins,
Or pelt him with words or stones.
Unless you are sure, yes doubly sure,
that you have not sins of your own.
For you know perhaps if the tempter’s voice
Should whisper as soft to you
As it did to him when he went astray Would cause you to falter too.

What Precautions Should Be Taken?

When assisting a fallen brother keep on “considering yourself lest you also be tempted”. The term “consider” requires self-examination. The tense of the verb indicates that this is to be an on-going action. While looking at the situation of a brother in sin, the spiritually minded saint would do well to keep one eye on his own self. The pronoun “you” is now singular. Self-examination is a personal responsibility.

When helping the brother bear his burden of sin, a Christian must keep asking himself several personal probing questions. Am I doing this for the right reason? Am I doing this just to make myself look good? Do I have a “spirit of gentleness”? Am I also involved in this sin?

Why Must This Precaution be Taken?

The reason for this precaution is “lest you also be tempted”. J.B. Phillips paraphrases: “not with any feeling of superiority but being yourselves on guard against temptation.” All of us are vulnerable to temptation. If they can be tripped up and fall for the temptation, so can all men. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Jesus warned, “judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:1-5).

Next time you see a brother caught up in a sin, help him bear the burden. Remember, not only is their soul at stake, but your soul as well. It may start with you helping the sinner, and it may lead to involving others to help even church discipline if that is what it takes. Jesus said, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17; also see 1 Cor. 5).

– Daniel R. Vess

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Categories: The Forum