7th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Galatians 6:1-10; 14-16 (sermon)
July 17, 2004
HYMNS (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
308 "Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Gates of Brass"
316 "O God of Mercy, God of Might"
326 "I Love to Tell the Story"
307 "Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun"
LIVING TOGETHER AS GOD’S FAMILY
Text: (vs. 1-5; 10) “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also maybe tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Sit down in front of your TV on any given evening, grab the remote, and I can almost guarantee you that you will find some sort of sitcom that centers around a family and family life. And I would also say that most of you wouldn’t have any trouble compiling a list of at least a few. 8 Simple Rules, Everybody Loves Raymond, Reba…..or you can go back to some of the classics like The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Home Improvement, and others. And yes, I enjoy watching some of these shows.
If you do watch these shows based upon the events in the life of a family, it doesn’t take too long before you realize that there is always a “type of glue” that sticks the family together. Often there is a problem or situation that comes up, and you see how everyone pulls together to help each other out and get the problem solved—and they can usually get it all accomplished in just a half an hour!
Sitcoms seem to always have a blend of personalities in the family too. You can find someone who’s bossy, someone who’s practical, someone who’s flighty and fickle, someone who’s tender and nurturing, someone who’s always getting into trouble, someone who’s a brainiac, you name it. And somehow these personalities seem to all blend together and everything works out.
One of the reasons these sitcoms are so popular, is because people can identify with characters in the show. Even though we wouldn’t want to necessarily relegate a regular family and their life to characters in a sitcom, yet there can be that level of identity. The situations can be both sad and happy. But most importantly, there is that sense that everyone sticks together in a type of bond which can only be described as a bond of love; and that bond supercedes all of those different personality quirks we all have.
In our text for today, Paul is concluding his rather forceful letter to the Christians in Galatia. There had been a lot of problems going on there. The people were fickle and unstable. They had been listening to a variety of different people with conflicting messages; and as a result, this group of believers was starting to fall apart. They were in danger of losing the very Gospel of Christ and the love generated from the Gospel, which was the glue that held them together.
So now at the conclusion of his letter, Paul exhorts them to look at themselves, not as just another group of people with a common interest, but as a family. He wants them to deal with each other as one family member would deal with another. Regardless of what situations might arise, he points out that Christian families need to stick together and help each other, so they can maintain the family unit.
If we look at verse 1 of our text, we find one of the more important facets of Christian family love in action. Here we read: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Sometime earlier Jesus spoke words to the same effect, in Matthew 18, 15: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”
Even though there is this close parallel here, Paul takes Jesus’ words, and applies them more specifically in a family type setting.
The words used here are “caught in a sin.” The King James Bible uses the words, “overtaken in any trespass.” This carries with it some sort of element of surprise, something like a fish on a hook, or maybe like a fly getting caught in a spider web. This type of thing happens in families, and sadly all too often. And naturally it happens in God’s family too.
So what do we do in our own families when this happens? What do we do in God’s family? Paul says, “You who are spiritual should restore him gently.”
Think of it this way. You’ve been in a car accident, and you have sustained injuries. You are trapped inside your vehicle, and you need to get free. But if just anyone came along with no medical training and tried to jerk your body out of the car, you could sustain even worse injuries, or such heroic actions might even kill you.
But here come the Paramedics. They know exactly what to do. They know that they have to get you out, but they have to plan their moves and do it gently. They may use the Jaws of Life to get the wreckage away from you. And then with a series of well coordinated moves, they transfer you to a backboard, and then transport you to a medical center.
Restoring someone caught in a sin is much the same thing. If someone goes in with pride and an overbearing attitude, then more damage than good can happen. It can drive a person further away.
But if one who is spiritual is doing the restoring, that is one who has God’s spirit of love in action, then the restoration is done gently and with a spirit of meekness. The one who is spiritual is also mindful that they themselves can also be caught in the snare of sin.
Paul writes in verse 1, “…but watch yourself, or you may also be tempted.” And then in verses 3 and 4 he continues with this thought, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions.”
Finger pointing is so easy at times. We see a sin taking place in the life of a brother or sister in the faith, and we can just cloud up and rain on them without a moment’s notice. It’s far easier to slam the door in their face and walk away than it is to treat them as family.
We don’t have to dig too deep to find a “holier than thou” attitude within all of us. We might not have the same sin as a brother or sister in the faith might be experiencing, but we do have sin in our lives, in one form or another. And lest we become too proud, we have to remember this when dealing with someone else. There’s only a fine line between us having to deal with someone else, and someone else having to deal with us.
Paul deals with this in verse 7 as well: “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” I also think the warning in Proverbs 16, 18 should be heeded: “Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
I’ve been kind of jumping around in this Galatians text a bit, because I’m leading into the one verse that is germane to this whole section. This is verse 2 of this section which reads, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” That’s from the King James Bible; the NIV translates it “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.”
What is this “law of Christ” Paul is talking about? Quite simply, it is love. Love for God, and love for our fellow man. This is the glue that sticks the whole family of God together. And when we “bear one another’s burdens,” we are putting this love into action.
God wants us to deal with each other in the same way he deals with us, which is out of love. He created this world out of love, and brought human beings forth as a crown to his creation.
Even when mankind rebelled against God and decided to go their own way, God again dealt with them in love. God promised to send a Saviour into the world to restore the fallen human race, and bring sinful mankind back into fellowship with him.
Furthermore, God also sends the Holy Spirit to work faith in the hearts of people so they can apprehend this gift of love. In fact, everything God does is according to his grace, which is his undeserved love. Every other attribute of God is subordinate to his grace.
God takes us, each and every one of us, caught in the snare of sin, and restores us gently. Jesus speaks to us with words of comfort and hope when he says in Matthew 11, 28-30: “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Faith in our Saviour is indeed such a blessing; and the love that surrounds us with this blessing is brought to light in our interpersonal relationships with our Christian families as well as our earthly families. This love of Christ that we demonstrate in our lives is the glue that sticks us all together as a unit.
And so, we stand ready to help, ready to understand, ready to forgive, and ready to love. We gladly bear one another’s burdens fulfilling Christ’s law of love in our lives. And as we do so, we know we will be blessed and strengthened because of it.
As I look at my own life, I guess there might be material for a sitcom. Sometimes I think that my life might be better soap opera material, I don’t know.
I’ve had situations in my life where I have done the wrong thing and messed up along the way (surprise, surprise). I’ve been with seemingly good Christian people who should have reacted accordingly, but they didn’t. I’ve come forth with a spirit of repentance, and I’ve asked forgiveness; only to be met with a proverbial door slammed in my face. I have had to deal with some very unforgiving people in my life who have acted in ways other than what a Christian family should have acted. Even though I was in the wrong and admitted my sin, I guess I expected something other than what I received.
It’s really sad sometimes when the only thing a group of Christians offer a repentant sinner is a stone wall rather than a shoulder to help with the burden.
I’ve said it before, and I think it bears repeating again:
Just because somebody doesn’t act like a Christian to you, doesn’t give you the excuse of not acting like a Christian to them.
And so, people like this don’t need our words of condemnation, but our prayers. We need to be the understanding and forgiving ones. We need to show and share this love of Christ that dwells within each one of us.
As we conclude Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he gives us some great encouragement as members of Christ’s family. He writes in verse 10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Certainly those Galatian Christians weren’t an easy family of believers. There was a lot of struggles going on there, and they needed to be united.
For us, here today, may we carry forth Christ’s law of love in our own midst, because it is the glue that will hold us together as a family of believers. With this bond strong among us, we will be able to withstand every obstacle and break free of every snare that Satan would happen to throw at us. Through Christ, we will stand firm together as we proclaim that old, old story of Jesus and his love to the world around us.