Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1
In the movies, we celebrate the hero who runs into a burning building to rescue the trapped child. When I was first introduced to the world of Emergency Medical Services (ambulance services) though, I learned about assessing scene safety. When paramedics arrive on location, they must first decide whether it’s safe to proceed. If there is some physical hazard that may injure them, they must first address that problem before approaching the patient. It does no good if they just rush in and become another victim of whatever it was that injured the first person. If they act recklessly, they can easily make the problem worse by adding to the number of people who require assistance.
Though he wasn’t referring to EMS, Paul taught a similar principle in today’s passage. In the preceding sentence, he taught that we do have a responsibility to help those around us who’re struggling with some sinful behavior. He tempered this command though, with this warning – Don’t get sucked into the sin while you’re trying to help (my paraphrase).
Though we’re supposed to care about those around us, we must also maintain appropriate boundaries. Just as the paramedic must recognize a live electrical wire and keep his distance, we must recognize the potential for becoming part of someone else’s disaster. It does no good to anyone if, instead of helping, we become part of the problem.
How might we get sucked into another’s struggles? If we try to help a buddy who’s struggling with pornography in his marriage, perhaps we may research online tools to help. If we google “help with pornography”, I’m sure we’d be just a few clicks away from viewing inappropriate internet content ourselves. If we follow a friend to the bar, in an effort to get him to stop drinking, we may soon be tempted to drink as well. The closer the relationship with the individual, the greater the danger. When we maintain intimate relationships with those who’re heading down a path of destruction, we often allow that destruction to become part of our lives. Love often makes us to do things that are incredibly unhealthy for us.
Paul taught that we do have some responsibility to help those around us who’re struggling, but he also said we must also maintain necessary boundaries. The limit to our assistance is wherever we may be tempted to engage in destructive behavior ourselves. We must always live rightly, helping where we can, but we must also leave the results up to God while protecting ourselves from falling into evil.