Paul’s admonition that “each one should carry their own load” (Galatians 6:5) occurs in a strong relational context. Since 5:1 he’s been developing a picture of what it means to live as people who have been liberated by Christ. The freest people in the world are not those who do whatever they want to—that’s the way of the flesh (v. 17- “you are not to do whatever you want”). Liberated people live a life characterized by service, humility and love (v. 13).
These things are the domain of the Spirit (v. 22). Therefore, to live this way is to walk by the Spirit (v. 16). Additionally, Paul will speak of being “led by the Spirit” (v. 18), of how we should “live by the Spirit,” and “keep in step with the Spirit” (v. 25). It’s clear that the Spirit’s walk is a spiritual walk that has as one of its priorities the needs of others (note how many of the characteristics mentioned as part of the Spirit’s fruit are relational).
All of this brings us to 6:1, where Paul is encouraging those who walk by the Spirit not to leave someone caught up in a sin behind or look down on them disdainfully, but rather to “restore that person gently.” The word for restore is used for setting bones (Vincent, Barclay). This suggests the correction is not only to be done in a sensitive manner, but with a view toward rehabilitation rather than punishment. We need more bone-setters!
This attitude is the application of Jesus’ words about treating others as we would want to be treated if the roles were reversed (Matthew 7:12). And they well might be if Paul’s warning to “watch yourselves” isn’t heeded. There’s no one immune to stumbling so we’re not to act like we are! Instead, we are to “bear each other’s burdens.”
Paul continues to speak against a superior/smug attitude as he warns us against a false assessment of ourselves (v. 3). He appears to the continuing the thought of v. 1 and cautioning us against forming too high of an opinion of ourselves by comparing ourselves to others (especially the one caught in sin). It takes no talent to compare someone who is weak in an area we’re not and conclude we’re superior. Or, in the case of v. 6, deeming yourself better because you have greater knowledge in a certain area than someone else. But in either case it’s as wrong (and unwise) as it is easy.
Accordingly, Paul says in v. 5 that we need to be aware in our self-assessing that “each one should carry their own load.” He’s telling us that we will be judged according to our own situation—not someone else’s. In evaluating our self we need to stick to our self! We can’t point our finger at someone else and justify our action or inaction by them. We must own our own circumstances rather than borrowing someone else’s.
Bone setters must not be boneheads!