My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads. Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.
Paul’s admonition does not here come out of the blue. It is the implication of the life of the Spirit, as he describes it, in its power and beauty.
That’s the setting. Away with all pettiness! All self-serving! All censoriousness! What room is there for self-righteousness in the life in Christ?
We’re all on a journey. If someone strays, beckon her/him back gently. Who knows? You or I, we may need a similar service some time. You never know. Our own sense of direction can be a bit rocky from time to time.
Not that that’s an excuse for leaning on others when we should be doing the hard work ourselves. Laziness is not one of the fruits of the Spirit. Politicians are keen on giving us stark choices – it’s either individualism or the corporate state. Paul is telling us different here. The choice is actually between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Everything then falls into place.
It doesn’t work in today’s society? We’d have a better idea if it had been tried more often. It is sad but true that many people will not now darken the door of a church because they have seen how the lives of Christians have been at variance with their profession. How they have experienced censoriousness and unwelcome at the hands of people who should have known better and lived better.
What a beautiful picture is being painted here. Can we all find a place on the canvas?
Loving Father, Grant us a place on the canvas, and face us with the challenge of being like the portrayal. Grant us the humility of being among the hesitant and nervous; and the confidence of being among the assertive and confident. Prop us up as we shoulder our own burdens, and give us the patience to tolerate those struggling with their own. Give us the forbearance not to chide those who stray, and the meekness to accept the guidance of those who seek to rescue us. Grant us the happiness of the journey and the joyous anticipation of its goal.
Ed Strachan, Heald Green URC, Elder and Lay Preacher