“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).
The element of surprise can often teach us much about ourselves. For instance, if we respond to an unexpected test in an inappropriate manner, we may learn hidden truths about ourselves that underscore the harsh reality of Jeremiah 17:9: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (NLT).
Galatians 6:1 captures this idea when it says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently…” (NIV). This reference to caught in a sin identifies someone who has been “apprehended, taken by surprise, (or) caught red handed” (1) in an action or behavior that is out of character for a God-honoring man or woman.
In other words, the person in our example didn’t intend to do something wrong nor was he or she engaged in a life of habitual sin. Instead, this passage refers to someone who has made a Biblically inappropriate choice in a moment of weakness or vulnerability. In such instances, Galatians 6:1 tells us that we are responsible to restore someone who meets these parameters and gently help that person back from his or her mistake.
We should note that this responsibility is directed toward “…those of you who are spiritual” (GW). This tells us that the obligation to restore someone who has been “…overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort” (AMPC) extends beyond the church’s leadership to include anyone who exhibits the fruit of a Godly life.
On a related note, this passage also helps to explain why God may sometimes allow us to struggle to overcome the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that are not reflective of His character. You see, it may be difficult to appreciate the challenges that others experience in overcoming such things. But those who have successfully fought such battles often possess a great deal of sympathy and appreciation for the challenges others face in similar areas.
This may also help to explain something we read in the New Testament epistle of 1 Corinthians…
“…(God) comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow toward us, so also our comfort through Christ overflows to you” (2 Corinthians 1:4-5 NET).
(1) Ryrie, Charles Caldwell Ryrie Study Notes [Galatians 6:1] © 1986, 1995 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2004 WORDsearch Corp.