Carry One Another’s Burdens
Open Your Bible
Galatians 6:1-10, Hosea 10:12, John 15:9-17, James 2:14-26
September is a busy month for all of us. In my neck of the woods we’re packing, renovating, homeschooling, working—and I’m still nursing a baby. You may also be experiencing a season like this right now. When I’m busy, it’s harder for me to deal tenderly with everyone else’s particular struggles. It feels like quite enough to manage my own burdens without even entering into the burdens of someone else.
But God has entrusted us with precious souls. Our friends, our parents, our children, our spouses—anyone the Lord brings before us—we are called to deal tenderly with each other. There is a huge cultural impulse toward “self-care,” but this is not what we as Christians are called to focus on. We are called to bear one another’s burdens, to walk alongside each other on this faith journey. We are called to focus on the Lord and care for others. Even when we’re busy. Even when the burdens of others seem inconvenient. Even when we really, really just want to push them away.
Fortunately, Paul delivers some practical direction for us. He shows what walking by the Spirit looks like in some very common and practical circumstances. His first instruction: deal tenderly with those overtaken in wrongdoing (v.1). To be overtaken in wrongdoing is to be caught by temptation and then falter. This is very different from someone who has chosen to deliberately walk in sin, willfully pursuing it. In order to love others well, we need to remember our own sinfulness and God’s grace to us. Yes, sin must be treated as sin, but always in the spirit of love, and in light of God’s forgiveness and constant love for us.
And then we must make the way home easy, restoring them with a gentle spirit, responding in love rather than in wrath and fury. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son? (Luke 15:11–32). We ought to make the way home easy, welcoming them, celebrating and rejoicing because what once “was lost [has been] found” (v.32).
It’s far too easy to deal with other people’s sins, well… sinfully. Ironic, huh? But knowing full well the battle between flesh and Spirit that actively wars within each one of us (Galatians 5:17), we ought to show mercy and tenderness toward those who stumble, because we, too, live only by the tender mercy of God. Apart from His grace, none of us could stand before Him.
Paul’s second instruction is to carry one another’s burdens, both the circumstantial burdens of this life, like finances, food, and shelter, and also the burdens of sin and temptation. We are to be a strengthening influence for our fellow sojourners in the faith—succor in time of need, encouragement in time of weakness, support in times of faltering. “In this way,” Paul declares, “[we] will fulfill the law of Christ” (v.2).
Wow. What a statement. We like to make sure our neighbors are dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s, instead of seeking ways to love and serve them as Christ has loved and served us—as a humble servant, laying down His life in love for us. May we learn to follow the pattern of Christ, not in duty, but in love. In this way, we will not tire of doing good, but will reap the fruit of faithful love in the communion of the saints (Hosea 10:12).