1Brothers and sisters, if anyone is found in some transgression, you who are led by the Spirit must set him right with a gentle spirit, all the while watching yourself so that you are not tempted as well. 2Carry one another’s loads. In this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. — Galatians 6:1-2
It’s interesting how these devotionals come together. When Jody and I agreed that I would share the writing as she accomplishes several other things, including writing on her next book, I wondered how I’d manage to produce enough devotionals. Jody has been gifted for the five minute devotional thoughtâ€”an important gift. I have been gifted for the five hour thought, also an important gift, provided I can get anyone to listen!
This morning I had barely started to think about a topic for the morning, and I reached over to the Bible I keep on a stand right next to my keyboard to flip pages. I was about to turn the page when my eye fell right on this passage. Now an earlier error had led me to turn to this page to look at a completely different verse, but there it was. I have found that in the weeks since Jody and I made the agreement to share in order to keep the devotionals going and yet give her more time to write, these thoughts keep coming to me. God is faithful to help in my weakness in order to accomplish his call!
Now I’m good at rambling, but I do have a connect. In these two verses Paul calls on us as Christians to do a couple of things that are extremely hard to do. They’re especially hard to do well.
â€œGently correctingâ€ is something many aspire to, and many claim, but few accomplish. There are a couple of easy ways out. On the one hand there’s a critical spirit, one that looks for faults in a brother or sister, and takes joy in pointing them out. Combined with cowardice, this results in gossip. We look critically at someone else’s behavior, but we don’t have the courage to tell them. Perhaps if we think about gossip as cowardice, we will refrain from doing it.
On the other hand there is a refusal to take the responsibility to help someone out. And it is helping! When I preach, for example, I appreciate all the folks who shake my hand afterward and say, â€œGood message, brother.â€ It’s nice to hear that. But what is really valuable is when someone comes out of the sermon and says, â€œI enjoyed that, but I have a couple of questions.â€ Then I know that I’m going to learn something new about how to communicate, or I may find that I’ve conveyed a message other than what I intended to say. The point is that the criticism (constructive!) is valuable. The other form of cowardice is the refusal to take on the task of correction when it is your responsibility and when it’s necessary.
Once we do realize that correction is necessary, and that we are the ones God has called to offer it, we still face the problem of doing it with a gentle spirit. Spiritual pride tells us that we’re better that this other person, because we don’t have the weakness we’ve identified in them. That’s one reason Paul tells us to be careful lest we fall into temptation ourselves. There’s nothing like a good dose of superiority to make one vulnerable to the devil’s attacks!
There’s a similar problem with bearing one another’s burdens. It’s quite easy for us to push a brother or sister aside in the name of bearing their burdens. There’s nothing that will destroy potential leadership in a church or business like a leader who either takes over the task at the first sign of difficulty, or who hands it off to someone else. Similarly, we can grab someone else’s job in the name of bearing their burden, and cut off their own growth as leaders.
And this brings me back to my opening. God’s commands come with God’s gifts. Paul addresses this to those â€œwho are lead by the Spirit.â€ If you make it your determination to obey, and listen to the Holy Spirit, you will find the opportunities opening up, just as God helps me find one page devotionals each and every morning that I need them.
With God, command equals empowerment, if we’ll just receive it.