"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load." - Galatians 6:1–5
In this passage, the apostle Paul calls believers to be agents of restoration for those bound by sin. Many rich things can be said of this passage, but, for the sake of brevity, only four reflections for consideration will be presented here.
1. Each believer is commanded to be a Restoration Agent.
The statement translated “should restore” is a command in the original language. All believers who have the Spirit of the living God and who are seeking to live in accordance with the Spirit are “spiritual” (Gal 3:14; 4:6; 5:16, 25). This command is for each member of the church, not just those perceived to be leaders.
God has a role for each member of his body in helping restore others. When believers discover a concern or need in the life of another, they have an unhealthy habit of passing that concern onto a Sunday School class or church leadership. Instead of passing along concerns, believers should see God’s sovereignty at work. God has placed them in the path of this particular need. Since God adequately equips those he calls into his service, they should see that God has equipped them to take the lead and address this need in his power within the community of Christ.
2. Restoration Agents will experience the best and worst of community.
The reality is that wounded people wound people. When a believer tries to help someone bound by sin, they will experience all types of responses. They may be attacked and asked who they think they are. They may be accused of being judgmental. Their generosity may be taken advantage of.
At the same time, some people will respond well to these loving gestures to come alongside and bear their great burdens. Their willingness to allow another to come alongside them will allow brotherly and sisterly bonds to be forged through the depths of these trials.
3. Restoration does not necessarily mean the removal of all consequences.
As people allow others to help, consequences may still remain. Divorce may still happen. God may not heal the STD. Gambling and addiction debts may remain unpaid. Children may still get hurt.
Restoration does not negate the destructive wake sin leaves behind.
4. Restoration is messy.
Helping others is a messy process. Look at the ministry around Jesus. Chaos and messes followed him everywhere. All too often, churches strive to be “pretty,” when the biblical model of restoration will actually cause them to be brilliantly and biblically messy.
The restorative forgiveness described in Galatians 6 is transformative to a community. When believers understand the depth of their sin and the unbelievable forgiveness they have experienced from God, it changes their approach to sin. It does not lessen the disdain for rebellion, whether it is of their own accord or from someone else. It helps them to continually reach out and reach up. It compels believers to repeatedly forgive and seek the restoration of others. It compels them to lose count of transgressions and to be kind. It compels them to respond gently to harsh comments and realize that when people are in habitual sin, they often act irrationally.
When this type of restoration is practiced, it will deepen the authenticity, patience, humility, strength, and transparency in a church family, and the church will experience the depth of community in a way like never before.