Galatians is in large part a scathing book. It’s sentence after sentence of Paul’s logical but emotional rebuke of the Galatian Christians who had abandoned the pure gospel of justification by faith and instead turned toward a mixed bag – a little faith, a little Jesus, and a little bit of works here and there and…
You’re acceptable to God.
But as you turn the corner into chapters 5 and 6, so does Paul, and he sets about describing the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of these Christians. The Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, and a host of other characteristics. And as the apostle continues into chapter 6, he begins to discuss the law of love and how it works itself in the lives of these people.
Remember, many of them had deserted the gospel; Paul’s goal was not only for them to return to the true faith, but also to return to the true church. He didn’t want a church that was broken and fractured by people’s abandonment of their faith; instead, he wanted to see these churches put back together. In order for that to happen, there had to be some restoration that would take place:
“Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else. For each person will have to carry his own load” (Galatians 6:1-5).
The goal here is restoration.
And there’s one particular word that helps us see what that process is like. That word – restore – is the same word used in Mark 1 of the fisherman who were mending their nets:
“Going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in their boat mending their nets…” (Mark 1:19).
They were “mending” them. Or “restoring” them.
Such work is tedious, time-consuming, and careful. You have to be down on your hands and knees, looking deeply and carefully about the way those nets are intertwined and wound around each other. Then, once unwound, you have to carefully put them back together.You have to separate the strands from each other so that you can truly identify the complicated and tangled issue.
Why do you go to such great lengths, though? It’s not for the purpose of identification; you already know the net is busted. You do it to restore it – patching the rips and tears and putting them back in order so they might be useful for their intended purpose once again.
Such is the case with the kind of restoration in Galatians 6. It takes a long time. It involves careful personal investment. It’s something that’s only truly accomplished by those who know what they’re doing. It’s messy, pain-staking work. And it’s the kind of work that can only be accomplished if we have the end goal in mind of putting things back in their working order.
Thank God this is what Jesus does with us long before we attempt to do it with anyone else. The Holy Spirit convicts and shines light on our sin – not just our behavior, but the deep-seeded heart issues that motivate those specific acts of disobedience. Then, over time, He puts us back together again in working order. Fit for use.
And eventually fit for fishing, just like nets.