“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 ESV).
This verse has been on my heart for a few days now. I’ve been mulling it over in my mind, ruminating on it to get every last bit of spiritual nutrition that I’m able. I still have a ways to go with it, but I thought that I would share what I’ve gotten thus far.
Paul opens up the sixth chapter of Galatians by encouraging us to look out for each other. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1 ESV). The world in which we live has become an incubator for sin. Like a quarantined sick ward people are isolated, kept alone with their conscience as their only physician. Those who speak out against sin are counted as narrow-minded pariahs, judgmental neophytes yet to reach maturity. Even worse, one who points out another’s sin, regardless the circumstance is shamed, sometimes publicly.
It seems discipleship, the process of growing to maturity spiritually, has fallen from favor. Replacing it is the age-old tool of the devil: everyone “did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6). After all, who am I to judge?
Sin is a burden too heavy to bear. This is at the heart of the gospel message. “If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin…. But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment produced in me all kinds of covetousness…. When the commandment came, sin came alive and I died” (Romans 7:7-9 selected portions ESV). Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ESV). He offered to bear our burdens, heavy though they are!
In the sermon on the mount Jesus says “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:41 ESV). He was alluding to the Roman law that a soldier could compel anyone to carry his load for one mile. To tell them that they should go over and above that for a hated Roman soldier must have seemed ridiculous. But Jesus was digging deeper. He wanted his followers to know and understand that, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and a servant of all” (Mark 9:35 ESV), that Christians must define success differently from the world. He wanted them to understand that if we go an extra mile for those who don’t know Him, we should go even farther in helping our brothers and sisters.
Part of our responsibility as growing Christians is to recognize the load of sin another believer is carrying and help them find relief from that burden, to point out the chains that bind and help set free. But we always need to remember the warning in verse 1: “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” If we’re not working on our own spiritual growth, we mustn’t point the finger at others. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4 ESV). And, of course, we must be willing to humbly accept reproof when a brother or sister reveals our sin.
Tomorrow I will continue this conversation on bearing one another’s burdens. I would encourage you to spend some mindful time reflecting on Galatians 6:2. Consider your current state of spiritual fitness. Maybe even encourage one or two more mature Christians you know to help you grow by pointing out areas of your life that need to be changed and redeemed. Obviously, we cannot bear one another’s burdens if we are too weighed down by our own. Ask God to help you get out from under the weight of sins that keep you from being able to help others.