The call to Christian discipleship is not only a call to believe, it is also a call to belong. When you believe in Jesus and begin to follow Him you find yourself in the company of other believers with whom you share a unique relational bond. The fellowship within the family of believers is one of the great joys of the Christian life, but with that joy comes responsibility. That is the focus of this final section of the letter to the Galatians.
Paul begins verse 1 with a family term, “brothers”, reminding us that while we should carefully maintain our personal relationship with Jesus (v.4-5), we have family responsibilities, too. We bear the responsibility for our own walk with the Lord, but we also bear a burden of responsibility for others in the household of faith (v.2, 5, 10). So there is a necessary balance to walking in the Spirit, and it is hinted at in the previous chapter. In the list of the “fruit of the Spirit” some of the characteristics mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 are inward and personal (joy, peace, self-control) while others can be expressed only in the context of a relationship (love, patience, kindness, gentleness).
All of the outwardly-focused traits of the Spirit-filled life must be put to use when a brother or sister falls into sin (v.1). The natural response of the flesh is to judge that person, making ourselves look better in comparison to them (v.3-4), or to deal with them harshly, finding a kind of sick satisfaction in jerking them back into line. But the response of the Spirit is to gently, patiently help them to be restored to full fellowship with the Lord and His people.
This is sometimes messy, time-consuming work. It is seldom done quickly or easily. There is a reason Paul encourages us to “not grow weary” and “not give up” as we help a brother or sister (v.9), but it is so worth it. As another passage reminds us, “Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). When we sow seeds of loving concern and gentle restoration, we reap a harvest of spiritual vitality in the church (v.8).
Do you know someone who has fallen into sin? Someone who was once faithful to Christ and involved in His work — but now broken, ashamed, and separated from the fellowship of the church? Pray for them now. Contact them today. If you don’t, who will? Ask the Lord to help you to bear their burden and restore them to usefulness. Someday it might be you (or me) who needs the restoration.