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A Sermon Preached at the ACK St. James Buruburu during the Youth Service on Sunday 25th November , 2018.
Galatians 6:1-5 “1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load.”
Spiritual journey is full of spiritual-landmines; and sometimes we find dear brothers and sisters hurt; bruised or blown out of the journey by the landmines. In most cases, they are hurt and left with permanent scars never to recover, and those who recover, either find their own way back to the journey without any help but their lives and relationships with those they had left on the pilgrims are never the same again – probably they are often frowned at or looked at with suspicion or even never trusted again; probably only a significant few are genuinely restored to their former glory in the pilgrim again as if nothing happened.
This passage raises a serious question: how do we handle one of our own who has been “Caught in a Sin”? In this passage, Paul, principally highlights three things:
- “The One Caught in a Sin”
Who is “The one caught in a sin”? Remember Paul is addressing Christian believers – “Brothers”. So Paul is addressing believers in the church at Galatia underlining the fact that sin is a reality and a brother / sister may be “…caught in a sin”.
1 John 1:8-10 8 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
There is being “…caught in a sin” and living in sin. That is, a one-time-off sin and a habitual sinner. What Paul is addressing here in Galatia is different from what the writer of Hebrews addresses:
Hebrews 10:26-27 26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Therefore, “someone caught in a sin” means one who is not settled in sin but feels guilty of the sin he/she has been caught in. The case is not of a habitual sinner who has been clever enough to hide his/her sinful acts till one day his/her cleverness is not so good and so is caught by someone else, but one of a determined saint who is groaning because, due to his/her fallen nature, has unwillingly fallen into sin. The choice for a singular for “sin” here signifies an isolated action which may make the person feels guilty.
Paul does not tell us what events have taken place among the Galatians before we are at the stage assumed in Galatians 6:1; a person who has sinned and needs help and the spiritual ones are being asked to take their rightful place in the situation. Two scenarios are possible:
- The person has sinned, the Holy Spirit has convicted the person, and the person has confessed it to the community; now the spiritual ones in the community need to help the person.
- The person has sinned, someone else has detected it, and the spiritual ones need to step in and help.
The second scenario would assume the principle Jesus laid down for church discipline in Matthew 18:15-17 (private and personal admonition, presence of two or three witnesses, whole community affair, and excommunication). For Paul, spiritual ones should do it with gentleness / humility.
- “The Spiritual Ones”
Those who are referred to as “The Spiritual Ones” are not a permanent class of people within a congregation. The term is used in a general way to refer to all those who at the point of restoring the sinner, they are still standing. You are spiritual simply because you have not been caught in a sin. In fact the sinner being restored today may be “The Spiritual One” tomorrow, restoring someone else. In a sense, this is what it means to “carry each other’s burdens”.
Today I help you carry your burden and tomorrow you help me carry my burden. If I don’t help you rise up today when you have fallen, tomorrow when I fall, I will have no one to help me rise because we shall all be down.
Anyone can fall, even the greatest saint. Anyone can get “caught in a sin”. Satan can come as an angel of light. We are mutually sinners and also mutually each other’s pastor.
- The Restoration of “The One Caught in a Sin”
One of the greatest challenges of our spirituality is whether we are able to restore someone who has been “caught in a sin”. The Pharisees, because of their legalistic observance of the law, certainly cannot do it. The best they can do is to throw you out of their fellowship; relieve you of all ministerial responsibilities rather than restore you, because they are more concerned with their honour rather than your soul.
“The Spiritual Ones” have a moral responsibility to reach out to one of their own who has been “…caught in a sin”. Being “The Spiritual One” demands being responsible towards the fallen brother / sister. However, the manner in which the restoration is carried out is important. Sometimes the restoration can completely crush “the one caught in a sin”. For example when “the one caught in a sin” is summoned to appear before the committee / church council / or made to stand in the congregation to confess and apologise or even confronted by a group / team. For Paul, the manner in which restoration should be carried out is to “…restore … gently” for it is just by the grace of God that they are not the ones sitting on the sinner’s seat.
The next responsibility is “carry each other’s burdens”. Burden is a heavy weight someone is required to carry for a long distance. It is any oppressive ordeal or hardship that is difficult to bear. The term burdens may refer not only to the context of sin but to all kinds of physical, emotional, mental, moral or spiritual burdens; for example, financial needs, sickness, emotional stress of divorce / separation. The list of burdens crushing fellow Christians could be indefinite. Sometimes believers are “caught in a sin” because they are overwhelmed by burdens.
In this context, Paul speaks to “The Spiritual Ones” to help bear the burden of “the one caught in a sin” and is going through the process of restoration. This means giving support as he/she deals with guilt, forgiveness, discipline, and restoration. It means, no matter how outrageous the sin committed is, we will not ask the person; how could you? We will also not place on him/her such demands of discipline as to crush his/her spirit.
On the other hand, Paul is very particular to differentiate between a “burden” and a “load”. A burden is one which “The Spiritual Ones” helps me bear (not carry) but a load is a personal responsibility of “the one caught in a sin”. Even after the burden has been borne by others, the sinner is still left with his own responsibility – e.g. one who has sinned by stealing public funds is restored by the spiritual ones, still has to carry the responsibility of repaying those funds or serving a jail term as a brother.
Zacchaeus, the chief tax-collector sets a good example. He saw his sin, gentle Jesus restored him, and Zacchaeus took upon himself his own responsibility:
Luke 19:8 “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
“Caught in a Sin – Gently Restore?” poses the reality-check and a challenge to us today. There are those brothers and sisters, who might be among us this morning who, may be have been “Caught in a Sin”. What have we who are “The Spiritual Ones” done? Have we made any efforts to restore them gently? Or we have confronted them to destruction? This morning, I welcome “The Spiritual Ones” to repentance, because you might have failed to help “the one caught in a sin” to bear their burdens. I also welcome you, who might be “the one caught in a sin” and have felt lonely because of how you were treated by “The Spiritual Ones”. You might have gone to the extent of abandoning the spiritual journey all together. God loves you and He wants you back. Please forgive us and give us another chance to help you bear your burdens.
Song: You Know My Name by Tasha Cobbs Leonard and Jimi Cravity
Sunday next before Advent, 2018
The Rev. Dr. Simon J. Oriedo
- Curate – ACK St. James Parish Buruburu
- P.O. Box 14814 – 00100, Nairobi Kenya
- Mobile: +254 – 722 838 023 / 772 838 023 / 735 62 11 72 / 752660620
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org