The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells of a man who is ambushed, stripped, beaten and left for dead (Luke 10:30-37). The first people to find him are his own countrymen, but they pass him by. It is the foreigner, a Samaritan, who stops and helps. We are ready to judge the priest and Levite for neglecting their brother in his time of need, but we need to make sure we are not doing the same. Sometimes Christians are ambushed, beaten and left for dead spiritually, and their brethren pass them by.
The Bible tells us to look out for one another. Specifically, those who are strong have a responsibility to help those who are struggling and have fallen into sin. "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:1-2). Let's take a close look at this passage.
Overtaken in any trespass. We all sin, but this is one who is caught up in a sin. It has come to rule his life and take him away from the Lord. Unrepented sin has both a binding and blinding power. Simon the sorcerer was told that he was "poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity" (Acts 8:23). His sin bound him so he could not get free, but it also poisoned his mind so that he could not see that he was bound. This is often the case with those who are overtaken in a sin. They cannot see what their sin is doing to them. They need help.
You who are spiritual. The responsibility to those who have fallen away belongs to those who are "spiritual." Christians sometimes excuse themselves from this command thinking someone else will do it. "Someone" often turns out to be "no one." Failure to obey this command is a sin. "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is a sin" (James 4:17).
Restore such a one. Action is needed. The word "restore" tells us several things. First, the one overtaken in a trespass is a Christian. The fact that they need to be restored means they have left their fellowship with God and their place in effective service to the Lord. Second, it tells us this is no ordinary sin, but one that has become their master. Third, it tells us that they are lost in this sin. If not, why bother restoring them? If Once Saved/Always Saved is true, why the urgency in helping this brother? "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20, emphasis mine - HR).
It is sometimes easy to let someone slip away, but the Lord told us He does not want any to perish. The shepherd will leave the 99 in safety to go and find the lost sheep and bring it back to the fold (Matt. 18:11-14). When a Christian begins to miss services and neglect Bible study and prayer, he is showing signs of spiritual sickness. We would encourage those we love to get needed medical attention, so why don't we help them when they are spiritually sick?
In a spirit of gentleness. Action needs to be taken with the right attitude. We are not to be harsh, impatient or unloving. We need to help them with a loving and understanding heart. Approaching them with the wrong attitude could drive them further away and do lasting harm.
Considering yourself. Action needs to be taken with attention to self. We need to consider ourselves in at least two ways. First, how would we want to be treated if the tables were turned (Matt. 7:12)? Second, there are temptations that can arise when we are trying to restore an erring brother. We need to watch ourselves.
Bear one another's burdens. This brother may be falling away because he cannot bear a burden. It may be a burden of sin, sickness, financial problems, family problems, grief over a loved one, persecution for his faith, etc. There comes a time in everyone's life in which they need a little help carrying their load. No one should be allowed to become so discouraged that they are left behind by their brethren.
And so fulfill the law of Christ. What is involved in fulfilling the law of Christ? When can we say His law has been fulfilled? Is it when the local church is Scripturally organized? Is it when we have converted our neighbor? It is when we are giving the proper amount of money on the Lord's Day? These things are important, but we fulfill the law of Christ when we act out of love and help our brethren. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34).
The command to go and restore one overtaken in a trespass is not pleasant or easy. It is often left undone - to the peril of precious souls. The admonition found just a few verses later is so fitting and needed: "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart" (Gal. 6:9). Let us all be determined to never pass by a brother who is in need.