1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1–2, NKJV)
How we react when a fellow Christian is overtaken by sin can help restore their soul or hinder their repentant return to the Lord. The spiritual Christian is mature in faith and responds with meek, empathetic urgency (a “spirit of gentleness”). Without delay and careful to avoid using self-righteous words and actions, mature Christians recognize their own exposure to sin’s temptations. Ready to bear the burden for the soul captured by sin, this person humbly accepts the task by using the direct and loving correction of reproof, rebuke, and exhortation from God’s word (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Surely this is how we would want others to approach us if we have fallen into sin (Matt. 7:12). Hopefully, this describes how you treat someone “overtaken in a trespass.” If not, consider yourself, make the needed corrections, and then help your brethren when they sin (Matt. 7:3-5).
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, NKJV)
Whether the topic is politics, social issues, or religion, reasoned discussion is too often drowned out by vitriol and venom in the public square these days. Whatever happened to the time when those with opposing viewpoints could disagree without being disagreeable? I suppose some never learned could. We pray for and long for a return to such dispositions, for any society whose citizens cannot calmly communicate is headed for tension, turmoil, and trouble (Prov. 14:34). The same is true of the Lord’s church. Can you to talk with someone who has fallen away? And if you can, how do you do that? The goal is to “restore” the soul overtaken in sin – any other aim is beneath this worthy objective. Spiritual maturity is essential when approaching a Christian who has fallen into sin. Such maturity will be reflected by the spirit of gentleness used when talking with the sinning saint about his or her sin. Approaching a fallen Christian with an air of disgust or superiority is the height of arrogance, and is sure to fail. Mature (spiritual) Christians remember sin also tempts them. And so, with meek compassion the effort is made to turn a sinner from error and save a soul from death (Jas. 5:19-20). Yes, the “spiritual” disagree with the one overtaken by sin. But, to have a spirit of antagonism only aggravates and hinders the effort to save the lost. Furthermore, to do so is also sin.
“Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5, NKJV)
Gentleness is another word for meekness and is part of the fruit of the Spirit we must bear in our lives (Galatians 5:23). It is a companion of humility and longsuffering in Colossians 3:12, indicating the condition of heart that expresses moral strength in the face of trials, while maintaining a quiet spirit in the face of provocation. Gentleness or meekness is not cowardice, nor is it indecisiveness. It is moral strength which is properly directed to help those who falter, while bearing with troublesome times (Galatians 6:1-2). Gentleness is a humble and kind demeanor in the face of another’s anger. The spirit of gentleness is the soothing quality of gentle conduct that combines with spiritual poise and strength. Gentleness refuses to be harsh or obnoxious in the face of unkind remarks (Numbers 12:1-3). It is the character of Christ Himself (Matthew 11:29). Let us endeavor to imitate Him. Our gentleness will be seen by others and it will be rewarded by the Lord, who is near.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:4–6, NASB95)
Christians have the ability to live in joyful gladness under the most stressful situations. The character of gentle forbearance couples with remembering the Lord’s approaching judgment to form two reasons we live in joy instead of anxiety. The third strand of the three-fold cord of joy is prayer. The thankful requests of prayer strengthen our resolve to rejoice in the Lord because we know God hears and answers us. With a gentle spirit, generous prayers and respect for the Lord’s presence and power to judge, Christians refuse to abandon joy for anxiety, especially in the face of temporary trials. Though Paul was imprisoned in Rome for his faith, he set this example of always rejoicing in the Lord. Today, remember Christ rules from heaven and sees all things. Keep a gentle spirit toward others as you petition God with thanksgiving for His great and constant care. By doing so you can, and will, “rejoice in the Lord always”.