Galatians: Supporting One Another’s Call To Live By Grace
Reading: Galatians 6
Galatians 6:1-2 (NLT) – “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
The 18th season of Dancing with the Stars brought Candace Cameron Bure to center stage. After her years on Full House playing D.J. Tanner, Candace slipped quietly into the background, making guest appearances in sitcoms and later starring in Hallmark movies and the ABC Family drama series Make It or Break It. It wasn’t until after Dancing with the Stars that Candace Cameron Bure became a household name again.
But with fame comes criticism. Obviously.
Since Candace was prominent in Christian circles, many people felt they had the right to voice their opinions about her dancing and costume choices on Dancing with the Stars. In her book, Dancing Through Life, Candace specifically addresses the criticisms she received while performing. Once Fuller House began airing, many people have turned to Candace’s social media platforms to share their disappointment in how D.J. acts or dresses on the show.
In 2016, Jen Hatmaker wrote a post affirming same-sex relationships. This decision was not something the Hatmaker family took lightly. Through years of research and digging into the Scriptures, Jen and her husband made their stance, calling for more love and compassion to be extended to the LGBT community.
The Hatmakers’ response was met with heated criticism. Not only were Jen’s books pulled from some bookstores, but she also received various forms of hate from other people. Had the whole issue only led to business problems, I think the criticism would have been easier for Jen to handle. However, the hatred from people who claimed to be Jen’s brothers and sisters in Christ was devastating. I attended Jen’s Moxie Matters Tour in February, where she talked openly about how fellow Christians reacted. She received burned copies of her books, innumerable pieces of hate mail and death threats, and her children were even pulled aside by strangers vocalizing what an awful mother and human Jen was.
Is this how we are called to confront people? Do we have a right to call out anyone who identifies themselves as being a Christian?
The short answer? No.
But it’s much more complicated than that. We do have a responsibility to look out for one another. Jesus Himself even tells us to rebuke one another if someone is sinning. However, I think there are a couple things to consider before choosing to confront someone:
- How severe is the person’s sin?
- Do you have the authority to address the person?
- What’s your relationship with the person?
In my last blog post, I used Paul’s confrontation with Peter as an example of why confrontation is important. I believe that at its core, the purpose of confrontation is to point others towards Christ and away from their sin.
God is so holy that He can have absolutely no contact with sin. Even if the only sin that ever entered the world was a white lie I told, Jesus still would have needed to be our perfect sacrifice. The only way to pay for sin is death.
Is sin sin? Yes. Does God see all sin as being against Him? Yes. I don’t want to imply that some sin is worse than others. Regardless of what the sin is, it hinders our relationship with God. That being said, there are sins that have a more severe effect than others. There are sins that have more disastrous consequences.
Take the confrontation of Peter for example. Peter’s actions implied that the grace of Christ was not enough for salvation. By aligning himself with people who taught Gentiles had to follow Jewish law, Peter was causing Gentile believers to follow a false gospel. Had Paul not rebuked Peter, how many people would have rejected the truth of Jesus?
Because of his position in the church, Peter’s sin affected more than just one person. It affected everyone who looked to him as an example. People who are called to teach Scripture are held to a higher standard than others because of their reach of influence. Also, Peter’s advocacy for following Jewish laws for salvation was a bigger deal than, let’s say, lying to Barnabas about Friday night plans.
There’s a difference between my pastor preaching that girls have to wear skirts in order to truly follow Christ and telling me he loved the new Star Wars movie when he actually hated it. They’re both sins, but the consequences of one could have eternal effects, while the other is slightly irritating.
When we see someone sin, I think we need to think about the consequences the person may face and how caught up in the sin she is.
In Galatians 6:1, Paul tells us to humbly help someone who is overcome by sin. Some versions say “caught in sin.” The idea here is that the sin isn’t a one-time thing; it’s an ongoing issue, something the person has been tangled up in and can’t get out of on her own. Our job then is to assist her, not throw accusations at her every time she does something wrong.
Like our example of Jesus, we need to balance everything we do with love and grace. Love is letting someone know when they are on a destructive path. Grace is learning what is important to bring up and what is okay to let slide.
Ultimately, it’s God’s job to judge sin. God may use us to help point a sister back to Him, but it’s never our job to condemn someone for their actions. We are never called to be judge and jury; we are not Jesus’s policemen, sent out to point out each transgression. However, there will be times when our positions of authority require us to confront others.
In the greeting of his letter to the Galatians, Paul introduces himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:6). Later in chapter one, Paul retells his conversion story, targeting the fact that Christ appeared to him. He did not choose to follow Christ because of another man’s words; he chose to follow Christ because Jesus Himself appeared to him.
When Paul states that he is an apostle of Jesus, he’s claiming that he was sent out by Jesus to spread the Gospel. The term “apostle” is generally kept for use when talking about the twelve disciples of Christ. These were the people Jesus chose to continue His work once He ascended back into heaven. A “disciple” mainly refers to any of Jesus’s followers. It’s kind of like an “all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares” type of thing. All apostles are disciples, but not all disciples are apostles. By claiming that he was an apostle, Paul was stating that he had God-given authority to preach the gospel.
Not only does Paul point to his apostleship, but he also uses approval from Peter, James, and John as evidence for his authority. Fourteen years after his conversion, Paul travels to Jerusalem to meet with Peter, James, and John to seek their validation of his message. These men were known as the pillars of the church: John was Jesus’s right-hand man, His best friend, the one He loved; Peter was hand-picked by Jesus to be the father of the church, specifically charged by Jesus to take care of His people; James was Jesus’s brother, the only sibling of Christ who is specifically mentioned in Scripture.
Because of the very personal relationships these men had with Jesus, they were highly influential and held special positions of leadership. Even though Paul had received his message directly from Jesus, he still sought the approval of Peter, James, and John. If Paul’s message was wrong or if he was missing something vital, these men would have known. Their approval acknowledged that Paul’s preaching was spot on.
By presenting both pieces of evidence to the Galatians, Paul verified that he had the authority to call them out on their behavior. He knew what he was talking about. He was not confronting them because of a power-trip of some sort; he was confronting them because his authority and leadership required him to do so.
Some of us may be in leadership positions where we have to rebuke people who are screwing up. To be honest, this is the hardest part of any leadership position I’ve ever held. I just don’t want to deal with it. However, when I see someone struggling with sin, as their leader, it is my responsibility to point out their sin and help them get back on track. This is especially true if someone is involved in something that may affect the well-being of other people.
On the flipside, we need to be open to receiving a rebuke from people who are in leadership over us. In the Christian community, leaders have a responsibility to keep their people following after Christ; in the secular realm, our leaders have a responsibility to keep things functioning properly. When pastor confronts us about a sin, we need to be understanding of their position and the special responsibility they’ve been given by God. When a supervisor confronts us about an issue, we need to be understanding of their position and the responsibility they have to do what is best for the business.
There may be times when we see an issue, but we have to choose to either cover it with grace and move on (if possible) or go to those in authority. We need to be deeply honest with ourselves to determine if we are in the right positions to confront a problem. Some issues may arise that we have no business dealing with, and the best thing to do is go to someone with authority.
Technology is great. Because of social media, I’m able to keep in contact with friends overseas or stay up to date with any of Taylor Swift’s new music videos. However, because of the popularity and importance of social media in today’s culture, we have instant access to literally anyone on the planet. Because of this accessibility, I think people feel like they have the right to give opinions about things when they have not earned the right to do so.
Ultimately, it does not matter what the haters had to say about Candace Cameron or Jen Hatmaker. Those people did not have a personal relationship with these women. Honestly, they had no right to hatefully express their opinions about how these two women were living.
By posting on social media, we’ve opened the door to criticism. It’s something that is to be expected. We can’t change the actions of other people, but we can change what we post. We need to understand that while we may have access to someone’s profile, we don’t have access to their personal lives. Unless we have earned a position in someone’s life, I don’t believe we have the option to publicly confront their choices.
This is the example Paul gives us in Galatians. He most likely had a hand in starting the church in Galatia shortly after his conversion, so he had a personal relationship with the people there. During his time in Galatia, the Galatians openly received him even though some type of physical ailment was a trial to them (Galatians 4:13-14). Their care for him was so intense that Paul claims they would have gouged out their eyes for him if that was possible (Galatians 4:15).
Paul truly loved other followers of Christ, especially those he had personal relationships with. Even though his tone was brash, he was passionate about the wellbeing of others, specifically in regards to their spiritual health. He thought of the Galatians as his own children and wanted to be with them through their struggle to the point that he compares his longing to the pains of childbirth (Galatians 4:19-20). This was consistent behavior in Paul’s life. In Romans, Paul claims that he would sacrifice his relationship with Christ if it meant that his Jewish brothers would come to know Him (Romans 9:1-5).
In the same way, we want the people who love us to be the ones who confront us. We have a responsibility to look out for one another. Sin is a serious thing. We need to be able to transparently talk about our struggles free from the fear of humiliation.
Every morning I watch a daily Youtube Original called Good Mythical Morning by Rhett and Link. Rhett and Link have been best friends since elementary school, and they now have a successful Youtube series, a book published, and a Youtube Red series (just to name a few of their accomplishments). Both men are also husbands and fathers. I have learned so much about relationships from the duo, not only on the marriage side but about solid friendships as well. It’s not easy to remain friends with someone throughout the changes life brings, as well as create popular internetainment (a term for entertainment through the internet, coincidentally coined by Rhett and Link).
During one of their podcasts, Rhett and Link answered fans’ questions about relationships. One inquirer asked how she could politely tell her boyfriend that he smelled bad. Rhett and Link came to the consensus that a relationship at that point is past politeness. “When you’re in a relationship with somebody, hurting his feelings, you want to be beyond that place. You gotta get to the point of communication where this kind of stuff is being addressed. It’s just a part of the contract, the honest contract,” Rhett said.
Link answered, “I cannot have a relationship where the person I trust and love the most can’t tell me when I am, when I don’t realize I’m doing something offensive. That’s the bedrock of a relationship. You’ve gotta look out for each other.”
As brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to be beyond the point of politeness. Being polite is offering a co-worker a piece of gum because her breath smells bad. You don’t want to make the situation awkward or tense, but something needs to be done. However, when dealing with issues that arise in the life of someone you’re close to, we have to be willing to chance the awkwardness because it’s for the person’s well-being.
Jesus was pretty frank when He warned His disciples about sin. We are promised that temptations to sin will come (Luke 17:1), and in Matthew 18:7-9 He said, “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”
It’s pretty clear that sin is a serious issue. It isn’t something we can be polite about, especially when it’s gripping the lives of people we claim to love.
Throughout Scripture, we are warned of the deviousness of Satan and his cunning ability to make sin appealing. There are multiple times where we are told to be aware, to be on the lookout for sin. You don’t have to be aware of something that’s obvious; you don’t need to look out for something you’re expecting. Satan is the Father of Lies for a reason. He knows how to cover sin in an appetizing way, in a way that encourages us to engage before we truly realize what is going on.
This is why strong, God-honoring relationships are so incredibly vital. We need one another to expose sin we might not realize we’re pursuing. We need other people who understand our weaknesses and our struggles so they can guard our backs against attacks from Satan that we might miss. We need friends who are willing to protect us, even if that means hurting our feelings. Proverbs 27:6 tells us that wounds from a friend are faithful; true friends are willing to risk hurting you in order to help you pursue Christ better.
We are called to bear one another’s burdens in order to fulfill Christ’s law: Love God and love people (Galatians 6:2). Christ bore all of our burdens, all of our sins when He died on the cross. While we can’t bear the brunt of God’s wrath as Jesus did, we can bear the weight of our sisters’ struggles. We can offer our hands to one another, supporting and helping each other get through the rough terrain of sin.
No part of this will be easy. It takes honest transparency to share your temptations and struggles with another person; it takes loving gentleness to approach someone when they need to be confronted with the truth. Being humble enough to accept criticism from those who love you is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard. Choosing to love someone through her sin struggle is not for the weak. It takes time, sacrifice, consistency, understanding, patience. Healing is not an exact process. Are we willing to stand in the struggle with those we love though it may take months, years even?
This world is too dark, too harsh, for us to try to live this life in isolation. We are meant for so much more than to just survive. If we truly want to be a lasting impact for Jesus, we have to lean on and support one another.
- Is there something you are struggling with that would be helpful to share with someone you trust?
- How has being honest and transparent about your sin struggles with someone else helped your growth?
- Read Proverbs 24:26, Proverbs 27:17, and Ephesians 4:25. What do these verses have to do with confrontation?