Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
I have titled this message “All for the Family” because this passage deals with how the Family of God interacts with one another. I love talking about God’s Family because quite frankly, you are my favorite people. Hanging out on Friday night with church members at the Rock the Valley concert and hanging out with my church family at the youth yard sale yesterday was a lot of fun. I have more fun with you all than any other people.
However, this morning’s message isn’t probably going to be the warm fuzzy Hallmark moment that the title suggests. So, everyone just go ahead and say “ouch.” I have a feeling our toes may get a little bit stepped on and I just wanted to get that out of the way.
I want you to think about what the Family of God means to you, in particular, what this local church means to you. At the end of this message, I will give an opportunity for you to stand and share in one or two sentences what the church means to you. As you think, let me share some thoughts from Galatians 6. First of all, I see in this passage that:
People who are for the church family look for ways to restore people when they sin.
Our job as family is to help each other recover when we fall. We are not only on a search and rescue mission with unbelievers, but we are also on a recovery and restoration mission with believers as well. We need to be as serious about seeing believers restored when they have sinned as we are unbelievers to have their sins forgiven through salvation. Wouldn’t you go after your mother, father, brother, or sister if they had decided to walk away from the family? It is serious business for believers to walk around with sin in their lives. I believe the Bible teaches it places us in great danger. Refusing to repent, refusing to acknowledge sin, refusing to confess your faults is a deal breaker for believers and God. God can not overlook sin. He won’t overlook it. He won’t sweep it under the rug.
To ensure that no believer would ever have to break fellowship with God, He instituted confession. The blood of Jesus atones for us every time we confess, but choosing to carry sin when we are aware of our need to confess it is turning our back on the process of dealing with sin that God has put into place. Saying “no thank you” to forgiveness is dangerous. It is serious, and we need to be serious about addressing sin in the church out of love and concern for our brothers and sisters who are in danger of being out of fellowship with God.
I know it’s hard. Does anyone here love conflict? Do you wake up hoping you can do an intervention in someone’s life or tell them about hurt and pain they have caused you? No one likes it, but it’s necessary if we are going to remain family. Now the way we go about doing so is just as important as our need to do so. There are two cautions for us. We are to restore people gently and we are to restore people circumspectly.
First of all, we’re told to restore people gently. Let your gentleness be evident to all. (Philippians 4:5) Gentleness is one of the Fruits of the Spirit. It’s an approach. It’s an attitude. It’s an atmosphere and tone with which we seek to confront people. Whether we are confronting someone about something in their life that they may need to examine or whether we are confronting them about an offense we have suffered because of them, we are to do it gently.
Gentleness is possible when we approach people in a spirit of love and forgiveness. When we meet with people, we need to make up our minds ahead of time that we will forgive them, no matter what the outcome of the meeting is. When we do that ahead of time, it creates an atmosphere of safety for the person being confronted. They will know we care about them no matter what. If we can’t be gentle with people in confrontation, we shouldn’t seek to rebuke or admonish them. It doesn’t mean we should sugar coat things or not share the truth, but we must pray for and exercise a spirit of gentleness when doing so. I’ve also found that it helps to start confrontations with prayer. When you meet with someone if you can say, “Let’s pray for God’s help as we begin,” it often brings peace to the atmosphere.
The word “restore” actually means “to mend, as a net, or to restore a broken bone.” If you have ever had a broken bone and had it set, you either appreciated the gentle way the doctor did his or her job or you were traumatized by the event. If you had a gentle doctor, you remember that while there was pain involved in getting the bone set, you remember the kindness with which it was done even more. The same is true of an aggressive or not gentle doctor. What you are left with is the spirit of the person that attended to you and that impression is a hard one to overcome later even if the person feels sorry for being harsh instead of gentle.
Circumspectly means: watchful, discreet, cautious and prudent. We read in Galatians 6:1b, “Watch yourselves or you may also become tempted.” You have to be on your guard when you are going into the pit to pull someone out because Satan will want to use any opportunity to push you into the pit along with the other person. When you are going to help someone out of quicksand, you will be in danger of falling in yourself. The same is true when dealing with people who are caught in sin.
People who are living in sin have somehow bought the lie that it is the best route to go. They are committed to their position and believe they don’t need to change and they can be very persuasive about why they are happy to stay right where they are.
There is also a temptation that Satan throws at us which is the temptation to suck us into the drama that surrounds the person’s sin. He may want us to get involved in ways that can entangle us. He may want to stir us up emotionally and create offense in us so that we can’t speak truthfully and gently at the same time or so that we walk away from the person in the quicksand.
Circumspectly can also mean “with a sense of wisdom and humility,” that accepts the reality that we are also capable of the same sin. Have you heard the Proverb attributed to John Bradford, “There but for the grace of God go I?” We have all surprised ourselves on more than one occasion by acting in a way we didn’t think we would or could. I Corinthians 10:12 says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” When we approach people with the humility that comes from the realization that we are all weak and fragile, we’ll have that spirit of gentleness that will open the door for loving confrontation.
Gentleness and circumspect wisdom also comes in when we do Matthew 18. If someone sins against you, you are to attempt to go to them privately. The more people that get involved in conflict and drama the worse it gets. It communicates gentleness when you can say, “I didn’t want to involve other people. I wanted to work this out between the two of us.” However, there comes a point often when someone isn’t willing to work through and pray through a situation with you. At that point, if they are a believer (as Matthew 18:15 says, “When a brother sins against you . . .”) you need to take one or two others with you for witnesses. Witnesses are for your own protection. They will make sure you recall things as they were and not maybe how you feel they were. They will help make sure you stay in check as well. The last thing you want to feel after a confrontation is that you lost your Christian witness or integrity by the way you acted during a confrontation. It isn’t worth it.
So, people who are for the church family look for ways to restore people when they sin. How is this all for the family? We don’t want to see family members on the outside of the family. God places members of His family in local congregations where each person’s contribution is important. Each person’s spiritual health and well being is the responsibility of the whole family. That’s why we aren’t on our own. We can’t do it on our own. We need each other. If a person gets displaced by sin and stays displaced by sin they won’t have the encouragement, support and accountability the church family is supposed to provide. Don’t let people fall away because of sin. Don’t let people walk away because of conflict. Be wise, but in the gentleness of the Spirit, go after them.
People who are for the church family carry other people’s burdens.
Verse 2 talks about what we should carry for others and verse five talks about what they should carry for themselves. The word used in verse five describes something like a “soldier’s pack.” We all have a backpack of stuff to carry that is our responsibility. God tells us that the regular backpack that we are to carry will be light enough for us to handle. He says in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” That burden, the heavy part, is being carried by Jesus. However the church has been designed by God to help carry burdens that are over and above the regular pack that we are to carry.
That’s why we took up a benevolence offering this morning. There are times when a family is hit with more than just the normal, everyday stuff. The Khoury family never expected to hear this week that their four-year-old son, Nimer, had leukemia. That shock is a burden beyond normal stuff. The Vandevander family never expected to have their less than two-year-old son transported by ambulance to a hospital due to having seizures. That shock is a burden beyond normal stuff. And when those two things occurred, I saw the Family of God spring into action. Prayer chains were started, calls and emails were made. In the case of the Khoury’s who were local, many visited. Our presence in those extra times of burdens helps our brothers and sisters bear the extra weight that is laid on them in those moments.
I have often said, “I don’t know what people do who don’t have Christ in their life when a crisis hits.” Perhaps I should add, “I don’t know what people do who don’t have a church family in their life when crisis hits.” I’ve probably had ten calls for people needing financial assistance outside of our church in the last eight weeks. In all ten cases, when I asked where they went to church, none of them did. They didn’t have the family support the Vandevanders and Khourys have.
The way we care for one another is our witness to the world of God’s love at work in us. Bearing one another’s burdens is all for the church family because “What goes around comes around,” and if you are faithful to reach out to God’s family when the burden is too heavy, you can rest assured when your turn comes, there will be someone there with you making a difference in the weight of your burden as well. If you skip down a few verses in Galatians 6 to verses 7 and 8, you see some commentary about sowing and reaping. What you invest will come back to you. When you need them, your family will be there for you.
People who are for the church family assume their personal responsibility.
Look at verse 4: “Each one should test their own actions.” If each family member regularly examines themselves against the Word of God and makes the necessary changes that are revealed to them, there will be a lot less conflict and need for confrontation with folks. I’m just talking about churches in general.
How many of you know someone who has said they don’t go to church because there are too many hypocrites or too much drama? Exactly. Each one of us has a responsibility to conduct ourselves with self control in an effort to live a holy, pleasing life. We need to regularly test our actions.
Look at verse 5 again. “Each one should carry his own load.” We need to regularly examine if we are doing our share, carrying our part of the load, in the Family of God. Are we each carrying our load? You know your nuclear family runs so much more smoothly if everyone pitches in to help. If everyone makes cleaning, and trash removal, and picking up after themselves part of their personal responsibility. Things run more efficiently. Everyone is in a better mood. At least I know I am when everyone is pitching in at my house. We appreciate each other when we see the effort being made to make sure things are well for the benefit of the family.
A friend of mine from Ohio told me recently how her husband helped her with her parenting. He told her to quit doing everything for their children and to start doing things with their children. Rather than lay out their clothes for the next day, have them enter into the discussion, come into the room, get the clothes out and lay them out together. Rather than fold all of the clothes and put them away, choose some things they could fold and fold clothes with them. The process of doing things with them would train them to be able to take personal responsibility and eventually do the necessary things on their own.
I am here to serve you, yes. But more importantly, I am here to serve with you. Our trustees and ministry directors are here to serve you, yes. But they are here to serve with you as well. We are supposed to each one be serving, each one be contributing, each one be using our gifts and abilities and resources. Ephesians 4:12 says you have been given gifts in order “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” This Family of God will only be at its best if each person does their best to do their part.
All of you need to be serving in some capacity. We want all of you involved in outreach. If you aren’t involved beyond attending and you realize you need to be, even if your time and resources are very limited, come see me. I’m sure there is a way for you to use what you have to impact the Kingdom of God. Everyone can serve somehow.
Part of the beauty of the early church was the togetherness they enjoyed. In Acts 4:32 all the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. They even sold their own stuff to make money to meet someone else’s need. It wasn’t “washing machine,” but “our washing machine.” It wasn’t “my car,” but “our car.” It wasn’t “my chainsaw,” but “our chainsaw.” If you needed something that someone had it was yours to use as if you had paid for it in the first place. They were serving each other and sharing each other.
One phrase that is close to worn out in our home is simply, “We share in our family.” It doesn’t matter who bought it or who it was specifically intended for. If it is under our roof, it is communal property. We all have access to it. That doesn’t mean that they can be disrespectful of the possessions we have or just use something without permission, but when the request comes, the expectation is that we will share one with another.
We also see in verses 6-8 a financial load that each member is to carry. Study of these verses reveals they deal with monetary giving. Verse 6 in particular admonishes that we should give financially to support the work of the ministry. As each one of us does our part through our tithes and offerings regardless of what that amount is, the Family will have the resources to do what God has called us to do. Are you doing your share to make sure the ministry of the Gospel goes forth through this ministry?
We have expectations for our kids as members of our family. They are supposed to behave in a way that will strengthen the unity of our family. They are supposed to support one another when there is a tennis match or basketball game. They are to help each other with tasks around the house. I don’t know how we’re going to make it through fourth grade math if Hannah doesn’t help Josh. There are times when we expect them to pick up each other’s slack. We expect both of them to do as they are requested to do and to be helpful. They have different abilities, so they make different contributions. Hannah can clean a mean bathroom sink, but Josh isn’t ready to tackle soap scum. We expect each of them to use the gifts and abilities they have to make our family better.
Just as you have expectations for the members of your family, so too, God has expectations for the members of His family. God has given you abilities so that you can serve the Body of Christ. Are you doing your part? God has given you possessions to share with those in need. Are you doing your part? God has blessed you with financial resources in order to tithe to further ministry. Are you doing your part?
People who are for the church family assume their personal responsibility.
Finally, people who are for the church family do good without giving up.
Verses 9-10 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
John Wesley had this for his rule of life:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
Why does the writer tell us not to be weary in doing good? It’s simple. There will always be needs to meet. This side of heaven, there will always be crises, pain, hunger, and hardship. So we need to never tire of serving others and sharing our resources.
In addition, I believe God knows that it’s harder to walk away from something you have invested in, and He doesn’t want you to walk away from His family. If you have been doing good to one another, your bond and affection for one another would have grown.
Are there five or six people who would stand and testify in a sentence or two to what the church family means to them?
Who is missing from our family this morning? Who do you need to go after to see that they come back into God’s Family? Who do you need to confront about sin or personal offense? Can you pray to do it gently and with wisdom? Who in our church family has a burden that you can help pick up? Maybe it’s just someone who is lonely who could use an invitation to lunch or a visit to their home. Are you using your gifts and financial resources to make the Family function better? Are you a part of God’s family yourself? You can be adopted into God’s Family with a simple prayer. It’s as easy as saying, “God make me your child. Make me a member of your family. Save me from sin. Empower me to live in a way that is pleasing to you. I want to live my life for You. I want to know what it is to be a part of the Family of God.