Spirit of Gentleness

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. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

—Galatians 6:1–2

The law of Christ is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37–39). Many gifts and callings of the Lord that help us do that are specific to individual members of His body (1 Cor. 12:11) and to their roles in fulfilling His plan. Other aspects of being a Christian are applicable to us all, and Paul here reveals one of them: to bear one another’s burdens.

We need to be careful not to read something into the meaning of Paul’s words when he said “you who are spiritual.” This is not referring to people who are somehow more spiritual than others, supersaints, if you will. The word spiritual here simply means not carnal, or regenerate. In other words, all who have been born again are privileged with the calling to be a restorer of the overtaken.

In this verse, the word overtaken comes from the Greek word prolambanō, and it means “to eat before others have an opportunity.” Do you remember the rebuke Paul gave to the church in Corinth? They were coming together for a meal, a love feast, but some were arriving early and eating all the food and not sharing it with others. That’s prolambanō; the trespass in Corinth was greed and gluttony. Putting oneself before others and being indifferent to the needs and struggles of others. So Paul is saying here in Galatians that when we see someone overtaken, we should gently restore that person while keeping in mind that we are capable of doing the same thing.

This keeps us from restoring with a “holier than thou” attitude, and that is the principle to keep in mind here. We may be tempted to approach a fallen brother or sister with a “what’s the matter with you?” attitude or a “how could you be so stupid?” mind-set, but Paul warns us this is nothing less than falling into sin while seeking to restore.

Have you a fallen person in your life, one who has erred in the same thing time and again, one you have talked to time and again? Consider yourself as you talk to them again, lest your efforts to restore become a temptation to condemn. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ!

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