Am I accountable for sin in the lives of my fellow believers?
We’re on our final session of the study of the book of Galatians and Paul has left us in a pickle. Some Jews were trying to make circumcision a mandatory rule for Gentiles to be included in the Christian community. Chapter by chapter, Paul dissects the problem of law vs. grace. He sums up his many arguments in Galatians 5:3:
“Again, I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.”
If we can’t save ourselves by obeying God’s laws, if faith in Christ is the only way for us to be acceptable to God, does that mean we are free to do whatever we want?
For the rest of Chapter 5, Paul addresses the role of sin in the life of the believer. Sin comes from desire. Part of the salvation process is the exchange of sinful desires for the desire to please God and become like him. Spiritual formation means we’ll let go of those old cravings that lead to sinful actions.
Okay, deep breath. Final issue.
If obeying a list of rules doesn’t save a person and God’s spirit is remaking that person, does that mean I turn my head when I see a fellow believer slip into sin?
I mean, I’m not supposed to hold their feet to the fire of law, right? And spiritual transformation is God’s business, right?
What do you think? What is our responsibility in holding others accountable for the sins they commit?
Read Galatians 6:1-6
These verses have often been applied to benevolence. We must remember the overarching theme of the book – law, sin, and grace. I believe these verses refer particularly to the struggles we each have over the power of sin and the temptations to sin.
- What should our involvement when someone else sins?
- How do we carry someone else’s burdens?
- Why is it important to help our brothers and sisters with the burdens they carry?
- What does Paul mean in verse 5, that each one should carry his own load. How does that connect to verse 4?
A common theme in Paul’s letters is that we are in this together. In the church body, we are all as strong as the weakest link. If someone is involved in a sinful behavior, it will impact all of us. Therefore, Paul makes this point clear: we need to look out for each other and we need to be accountable to each other.
- What is the danger in pointing out the sin issues in someone else’s life?
- What do we need to guard against?
- How would carrying someone else’s burdens help them stay away from sin or overcome sin?
- How do church people usually react to sin in the lives of other Christians?
Read Galatians 6:7-10
- Give an example of how someone will reap what they sow regarding the sinful nature.
- Give an example of how someone will reap what they sow regarding their desire to please the Spirit.
- Compare v. 9 to v. 1. What might the temptation be as we deal gently with other people’s sin and try to help them?
It’s a no brainer that people don’t react well when their poor choices are pointed out. People don’t automatically change their behavior or give up their hardened habits. Paul encourages his readers to hang in there because change takes time, YOU keep doing what is good and what is right.
Why does Paul single out our need to do good to those who belong to the family of believers?
Let’s Get Real
How do you approach someone who claims to be a believer but living against God’s way.
Here’s some steps you might want to consider:
- Define the sin. Is the person doing something that is truly sinful or are they doing something that you don’t like? Be sure you are right before you confront an issue. Playing loud music or spending a lot of time on the Internet may not be our cup of tea but they are sins in and of themselves. When we criticize people for choices such as these, we are putting them under our own law.
- Determine the real issue, We often criticize the results of sin rather than the sin itself. For guidance, look at the list Paul gives in Galatians 5:19-22; also look at desires and motivations. If two people are living together outside the context of marriage, ask yourself Why? Are they living together for financial reasons? If this is so, what is the sin issue – living together outside the context of marriage or failure to trust God to provide? The true reason will affect how you choose to gently disciple them and help them.
- Outline ways you might be able to help. Think about the above example. How can the church help the person in financial need so desperation doesn’t lead them to make a poor life choice?
- Consider how you will hold the individual accountable. When we decide to help others, we need to assess if there is a willingness to change. This is what Paul meant when he emphasized that each one should carry their own load.
- Hold yourself accountable. Are you willing to make an investment in this person, no matter how long it takes? What steps will you take to safeguard your own spirit so you don’t fall into sin patterns? You might be led to develop a relationship with an alcoholic, hoping to help them overcome their addiction. If doing so pressures you to drink indiscriminately, they are having more influence on you than you are on them.
It’s not easy to talk with other believers about our weaknesses, struggles and temptations. Perhaps we are placing ourselves under an expectation that we ought to be perfect and everyone else expects us to be perfect. The Bible teaches that we need to be authentic and accountable to each other. We need to admit our weak areas to a select few and help each other overcome. Most of all, we need to extend the same kind of grace Christ showed us, in accepting each other’s faults yet gently help each other overcome sot that we all build each other up in the faith (Ephesians 4:12).
Do you grow weary of working to build other Christians up and help them grow to be more like Jesus?
Post the words of Galatians 6:9 where you can easily see them:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Yes, don’t give up. Keep being a gentle influence, be patient, guard yourself, and never give up on someone. After all, God didn’t give up on you.
Thanks for being part of the bible study on the book of Galatians. If this is your first time, look back through my blog to find the other five sessions on the book of Galatians. We’ll study the book of Ephesians starting in the month of February, 2019.