My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads. Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher. Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.Galatians 6:1-10
If the last section focused on allowing ourselves to think too highly of ourselves and thereby allowing ourselves to delve into free for all behaviors, then this section is the flip side. It’s still related, though, and in this case, Paul is urging us not to look at others with judgement. Judgement of others always comes from a feeling of superiority, so Paul warns us to confront others with a spirit of gentleness. It’s intended to help us see that the other is most likely burdened with something that is provoking those behaviors, rather than pure spite.
When it comes to people who have been arrested for crimes and imprisoned, it is far too easy to simply write it off as “they got what they deserved,” and leave it at that. But the work should not end there. Carrying one another’s burdens should lead us to understand why this person felt the need to act they way they did. Understanding goes a long way to making sure that they will not do it again. It’s not that we are looking for an excuse to their behavior, but rather an explanation for why they ended up where they did. That understanding will help them to make positive changes in their lives, and hopefully keep them from repeating the behavior. This is the spirit of gentleness that Paul mentions; this is carrying one another’s burdens. Carrying each other’s burdens is not just for those that agree with us, or with those we find agreeable, but for all of our siblings in Christ. Even those that have wronged us or others.
While I use an example about criminal behavior, this need to seek understanding between ourselves and others is what will drive unity. Without seeking each other out in a spirit of gentleness, and without seeking to understand the motivations behind why we act the way we do, we will continue to entertain the idea of superiority. Ultimately, it is behavior that is focused on others and on a comparison between those others and ourselves. When we focus on God we focus on the benefit of others. When we focus on what others are doing, we focus on the benefit to ourselves; it is this comparison between where they stand, and where we stand in whatever measurement we are using that forces us to draw our attention to our own issues. This is why it is so important to approach others with a spirit of gentleness, so that we can understand one another, and move each other toward the common goal of Christ’s reign in this world.
Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. He will attend Sewanee School of Theology for a year of Anglican Studies in the Fall of 2022.