The Epistle for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost comes from the sixth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Our devotional reading comes from Concordia Commentary: Galatians.
Galatians 6:1–10, 14–18
Read the propers for today on Lutheran Service Builder.
Paul requests that “you, the Spiritual ones” act to restore the transgressing brother or sister. Paul reminds the Galatian congregations of their experience of the Spirit and admonishes the congregations to walk by the Spirit, to be led by the Spirit, and to keep in step with the Spirit. They are a people in whom the Spirit works fruit and for whom the Spirit combats the flesh.
Paul wants the Galatians to view themselves as “Spirit people” rather than as a people oriented around Moses’ Law. Incidentally, Paul is not using “spiritual” in the ambiguous, modern sense of the term as applied to adherents of any religion; Paul always means “Spiritual”—those who possess the Spirit of Christ. There is no sense of elitism here, only that the Galatian Christians are a different sort of people.
Of course, to say that Paul is addressing the congregations as a whole does not mean that he envisions them descending upon the poor, unsuspecting transgressor en masse. Congregation members have a responsibility toward their brothers and sisters that requires those who are closest to the situation of the transgression to address the matter.
The “Spiritual” must “restore” the brother or sister overtaken in transgression. The apostle recognizes that perfection of behavior will not be a reality even in Christian communities. What should distinguish Christian communities is the genuine concern that “such a one” be corrected when in transgression. Correction from church-family members may prevent transgressors from losing or giving up their salvation.
Too often Christians seize upon the faults of other believers. Gatherings of believers must discipline themselves to prevent faultfinding about other Christians from prevailing. Negativism does not reflect the Spirit’s fruit. Christians do not exult in transgression; they, with all due humility, actively seek the betterment of their fellow family members. Transgression requires constructive effort and engagement, not easy critique and faultfinding.
Christians must also discipline themselves to remain approachable for such correction through the Lord’s instruments. Luther agreed with Augustine, who taught that when believers treat the sins of others properly they prove themselves “spiritual” men or women. Unfortunately, such vitally necessary church discipline has become sorely lacking in most modern churches.
A “live and let live” attitude will not do, lest the disease spread without the requisite, regular spiritual surgery. Transgression is a cancer that can affect the entire assembly of believers. When Christians witness sin, they need to engage themselves and address it. They must, with due courage and love, act, as difficult as that may be and regardless of the potential repercussions. Such an approach to discipline requires discipline, if the pun may be permitted.
Devotional reading is adapted from Concordia Commentary: Galatians, pages 602–5 © 2014 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Hymn is “Jesus Has Come and Brings Pleasure” from For Manuals Only, Set 4 © 2017 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.