1Brothers, if any man is caught in some wrongdoing, let you who are spiritual restore such a one by gentleness of spirit, paying attention to yourselves, lest you be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4Let each examine his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not his other. 5For each must bear his own load. 6Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7Do not be deceived; God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will reap from the flesh corruption, and the one who sows to the spirit will reap form the spirit eternal life. 9Let us not tire of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. 10So then while we have opportunity, let us work good to all, especially to those of the household of faith.
As Paul gets ready to close his letter, he gives some instructions to the Galatians. He references “you who are spiritual,” and we recognize this as a level of maturity in Christ. He orders them to engage in the central work of the gospel: reconciliation. Restoration when one has slipped is one of the gifts of the church….we help others through the process of discipleship. As we can see in this pericope, Paul wants restoration to be prioritized, and it should be done in a spirit of gentleness. This sort of thing works best in the church, where relationships are foundational to receiving and giving correction. It is in the church where people know you well enough and have loved you practically enough that you can take their gentle nudges toward maturity. One of the Eastern fathers, John Chrysostom, taught that “you should identify with the transgressor if you want to help him.” That’s precisely what Christ did. In fact, that’s why Paul refers to this as the “law of Christ,” which is the law of love. Humility always curbs self-deception. As my old professor Dr. Stanley Toussaint said, “conceit keeps you from bearing others’ burdens.” Each Christian, according to Paul, also has his own calling and must be about it. He must prioritize that (7-8), and never grow weary in doing good for others. He emphasizes the shortness of time—which is an implicit call to manage one’s time responsibly and maturely (10)—and he also teaches that the good works that the Church must do should prioritize those in the church first (10).
It is not surprising that Paul gets around to teaching communitarianism in the church; he does this so frequently that it’s a safe bet. His emphasis here is on the mature members of the church helping guide the newer ones into maturity. No one is left alone in Paul’s ecclesiology. There is no “minding your own business.” There is no “live and let live” in proper Christian ecclesiology. There is, rather, the gentle nudging toward growth and maturity. That maturity doesn’t just mean preaching credentials or number of years spent in a pew…it means maturing in the ability to handle a scriptural text….maturing in the ability to forgive others…maturing in the ability to keep a secret, rather than gossip about it. All of these are functions of spiritual maturity. The priority is to bear one another’s burdens, and to prioritize those burdens within the church ahead of those without.
If you’re not doing this Christian walk with someone else, you’re doing it wrong. Think about how impossible it would be to live out the imperatives in this passage of scripture today, apart from fellow members of the local church. You need relationships that do this. We all need truth in our lives, and God sends that truth through the Word, corroborated by the Church. Your Christian faith isn’t much if it isn’t maturing, and it isn’t maturing if you’re not discipling someone and being discipled. Invest in others today.