“...that I may gain Christ and be found in him...”—Philippians 3:8-9, NIV1984

Friday, June 15, 2012

Helping or Hurting? - When Others Are Caught in Sin

1 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. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 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 (ESV)
It seems to me that this passage addressed the difference between helping someone overcome habitual sin compared to enabling a person to continue a lifestyle of habitual sin. It is not a simple thing, but Paul explained some principles to follow.

We must be gentle and compassionate in helping a person understand that his behavior is sinful and that he has become a slave of sin all over again (see Gal. 4:8-9).

We must be cautious that we’re not tempted to sin in the same as way by helping the person.

We must help others deal with their burdens which may be the result of their own sins or someone else’s. The word “burden” in verse 2 is different than the word “load” in verse 5 in the original Greek manuscripts. It seems that the burden refers more to the overwhelming aspect of being addicted to sinful behavior or living in a world that is affected by sin. Sometimes tragedy happens and people need help dealing with it. The burden may also refer to the emotional turmoil and shame that comes from feeling hopelessly addicted to sinful behavior. Let us be good listeners and ask good questions to help a person understand himself. Proverbs 20:5 (ESV) states, “The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” In any case, people need help with the extraordinarily difficulties of life.

We must accurately assess ourselves. Do we think our own lives are great because we’re burden-free at the moment? Let us be humble and help others rather than think we’re so great and have managed to avoid problems.

Let us examine our own work through God’s standard rather than comparing our work with that of others. God gives each person gifts and abilities and expects us to use those to carry out our normal load of responsibilities that He gives us 
(compared to overwhelming, unexpected burdens). Are we carrying our own load?

Among what is a normal load, each person has the responsibility to work and provide for himself and his family (see 2 Thess. 3:9-11). If a person can work, but does not, my responsibility is to help him escape from his sinful behavior and get back to carrying his own load. This often means providing for his needs for a limited period of time, but never on a long-term basis to enable him to continue in sin and escape the consequences. That is enabling the problem and ultimately hating the person since God often uses the consequences of sin as a means of judgment and discipline to bring a person back to his senses (see 1 Cor. 5:5, 2 Cor. 7:8-10, 1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:5-29).

One resource that I recommend for helping people deal with habitual sin is http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com/.