Galatians 6:2 - Carrying each other's burdens
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:2
Paul's letter to the Galatians was prompted by inroads made into the new Christian churches by people called Judaizers. They were Jewish people in the church who insisted that Gentile converts to the Christian faith had to submit to the Jewish rite of circumcision and respect certain ritual distinctions between pure and impure foods.
Principally, according to Paul, this meant that they taught that the New Testament church was still under all of the Old Testament laws. The New Testament church, of course, does recognize the principles of the law in the life of every Christian, but not in this legalistic sense. The law no longer condemns, because Christ has made atonement for His people. In that sense we are no longer under the law. In this verse of chapter six, Paul says that we are to live by the principle of love. To do this you must bear each other's burdens, because that is the requirement of true love.
The apostle speaks of burdens. Physically burdens are often carried on our shoulders. Burdens can be so heavy that they make us stoop over as we trudge along. This reminds me of the burdened Christian in Pilgrim's Progress. Paul is speaking here, too, of burdens that may weigh heavily upon the mind and soul of Christians.
What are some of these burdens? We may think of the burden of sin, sin in general, but also special sins. Luther felt that weight when he struggled with the question of how a sinner can become right with and before God. But even after we have become Christians our continuing sins can still be a burden to us.
There are, however, also many other burdens, due to physical as well as spiritual problems. Christian parents can be burdened by problems with wayward children. Christians can be burdened with all kinds of anxieties, fears, and other such problems. Widows and widowers often have heavy burdens. And if you do not have many burdens yourself, you can be sure that there are some people close to you who do, your neighbors, members of your church whom you know, or even members of your own family.
There are also often "secret" burdens, known only to the person himself or just a few close friends. There are many burdened people in every church. Last, but not least, the general anemic condition of the church is a burden to every conscientious member.
We must "carry each other's burdens," says Paul. This suggests carrying something heavy in our hands. When someone comes along and "gives a hand," what a help and relief that can be! Thus we must try to help other people carry their burdens. How must and can we do this? By showing an interest in them, showing that we care and are concerned about them. We must try to live along with them with a sympathetic mind and heart. It can greatly relieve burdened Christians to know that other people care for and love them.
"Carrying each other's burdens" means that we are to be "good listeners." Let others, after you have shown interest in them, unburden their souls to you. That means that they are asking you to help carry their load.
"Carrying each other's burdens" can also be done with financial help, with work, and even a letter or a card, with a visit, or a telephone call. Show them that you have an interest in them and care about them. Let them know that you are praying for them.
This is the work of pastors, elders and deacons, but also of all members of the church, no one excluded.
It is important that burdened Christians try to carry burdens of other troubled Christians. Never must we be so involved in ourselves and concerned only about ourselves that there's no room or interest or time for other people, our fellow-members of the family of God.
Often burdened people can understand much better than others the needs the burdened have. Those bearing common burdens may greatly help each other in the communion of the saints
The sad truth is that there is too little of this spiritual exercise among God's people. Many burdened saints are passed by, forgotten or neglected. Many Christians don't even know the burdens of their fellow Christians. There are some very independent people of God who live only in their own little world.
All of us are too selfish, often thinking only about ourselves. Most of us are so busy that we don't have time for other people, even burdened fellow-Christians. All of us may properly ask ourselves, or others, who the burdened people around us and in our congregations are. There are many people who feel lonely even in the crowd of the church, also in your church. Friends are not real friends unless they know something about each other's burdens and share them.
In carrying each other's burdens, what must be our motive? Paul says here that when we carry each other's burdens we are fulfilling the law of Christ — the law of love.
The Scriptures teach that we owe love to one another. This is a debt, just as when we owe other people money. God has shown us and given us such great love in Jesus Christ that He saves us. Belonging to this Christ, we now possess something of that love by the Spirit and, therefore, must show that love in carrying each other's burdens.
This is contrary to our sinful nature. By nature, we don't love each other. The very opposite is true. I can't help but think of what I once read about the Greeks of Paul's day. Their philosophy was radically different from the Christians' emphasis of love to the neighbor. Their ideal was proud self-sufficiency. Man must live within himself and unto himself. Everything in the pagan concept centered around self. There was no special duty towards the weak, the oppressed, the sick, the suffering and the poor. The only kind of love they knew was the kind in which we strive to acquire, to gain. The idea of loving those in need, of helping and giving was foolishness to the Greeks. Their ethics were purely egocentric. The Gospel was foolishness to them.
True love gives — in more than words, also in action. True love lives on giving without asking for returns. A good example of this is the love of a mother for her child. She gives and gives without waiting for return tokens of love. All Christians should have more of that kind of love. All Christians must carry each other's burdens simply because they love each other. True love in our hearts must compel us to so love each other. Then the pastor doesn't pay a visit simply because he feels he has to go, or the elder make a call only because that burdened member is in his district — the love of Christ compels them to do so.
May our souls be flooded with this marvelous love of Christ, our wonderful Savior.