Yesterday we saw Paul sneakily sum up the whole law as “love your neighbour” (Gal 5:14) If we walk in the Spirit doing that we fulfil it. Sneaky because although “Love God” would have been the more obvious choice – we can fake that, whereas loving people is hard to fake and really needs empowering by the Spirit.
Today we get some practical instruction as to what “love your neighbour” looks like.
Restoring people who sin
We all mess up, So Paul urges us to restore someone who sins gently. Jesus puts it in terms of taking the log out of your own eye before removing a speck from someone else’s. The danger with restoring someone else’s sin or pointing it out is that we are good at spotting our own faults in someone else. That makes complete sense and works in all areas of life! When I bought my Citroen C3, suddenly I start noticing how many Citroen C3s there are on the road!
So watch out! Watch yourself in case you get tempted in the same way. In the letter to Romans Paul points out that people did not know what sin was until the law came. Knowing it increased the desire. As an example, imagine you are walking on a concrete path in a public park. You come across a sign that says “Keep off the grass.” Up until that point you were happy sticking to the path, but now that you know that it is forbidden to walk on the grass, it is so much more appealing, so much more softer on the feet!
Having helped to restore a struggling sinner, you may find yourself being tempted towards the same sin.
Bear one another’s burdens
Have you noticed people talk about their “mental health” increasingly these days? It’s wonderful that the stigma of serious mental health issues like depression and psychiatric disorders are being highlighted so that people can access the help they need. But now society uses the language of “mental health” for every single struggle – students in halls of residence in lockdown are asked by journalists how’s your mental health? They answer “Its really affected”, whereas my generation would have said – I’m so bored!
In this letter to the church in Galatia, written thousands of years ago, we are encouraged to bear one another’s burdens – to talk and listen to how each other is doing.
Bearing one another’s burdens is not just talking about how we are doing, it involves helping others too.
Last week I noticed an old lady struggling to push her full trolley back to the car. I asked if I could help and pushed it along, all the while chatting to the sweet old American lady. I was bearing her burden! Once I had loaded her shopping in the car, she asked if I wanted a tip! I answered “Goodness gracious no, I’m English!”
No thinking too highly of oneself
Paul points out that if we think we are something when we are not, then we are deceiving ourselves. Someone once said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less!
Test what you are doing – are you doing something or nothing?!
Sowing and reaping
Here’s a paradox.
The grace of God means that we don’t reap what we sow. If we put our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we enter into God’s grace, his unmerited favour and eternal life.
But the grace of God also means that we do reap what we sow. There’s the paradox. Within the framework of eternal security, God is not mocked. So we do reap what we sow.
If we sow sin, or as Paul puts it in v8 sowing to our flesh. We will reap the consequences. We reap corruption – loss of joy, guilty conscience and perhaps loss of eternal reward. A life of continually sowing to the flesh , means the foundation of salvation we have built on will be burnt up (1 Cor 3:12-16)
So sow to the Spirit – walk in the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit. That means we will as we found yesterday be both loving God and loving people. We reap eternal life and reward.
Don’t grow weary
Keep going! Keep doing good!
Paul has big handwriting for the bit he wrote at the end! Maybe his thorn in the flesh was an eye-disease after all
What does Paul want to be ringing your ears at the end of reading Galatians?