Bearing others’ burdens

“Bear one another burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NKJV).

Some jobs are difficult if not impossible to do alone. Loading bundles of roofing tin and steel pieces intended for framing into a truck is one of those, at least if it is to be done by man-power alone. Things for which one is not strong enough can be easily managed by two or more working together.

Not all burdens are material in nature. Often our heaviest loads are intangibles like guilt, regret, worry, fear or shame. Many of our burdens fall into the category of sin. Paul speaks of those in Galatians 6 and instructs Christians to be ready to help others when they are overcome. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

Following that admonition is the basic principle, “Bear one another’s burdens.” One of, if not the primary reason, for the establishment of the Church is that people need help with their problems. And what better source of help than the fellowship provided by other believers? Christians are united by a common faith and by a common love. Those compel us to care for one another and to assist one another in difficult tasks. That is a basic precept of the law of Christ.

In his instructions, Paul notes four components of effective burden-bearing. First, it is timely. “If”, or perhaps he could have said “when” one is overtaken in a trespass, someone needs to be ready to help. The need is urgent. Leaving a brother to struggle with guilt and shame for days, weeks or months is almost guaranteed to result in much increased difficulty for him. When sin strikes, Christians must act.

Secondly, the need calls for those who are spiritually mature to respond. Though a novice may have a good and willing heart, his lack of experience and spiritual knowledge limit his ability to help appropriately. When someone sins, there is great potential for offense and outrage. The love of a mature Christian is required to offer firm yet empathetic correction.

Third, bearing another’s burdens requires gentleness, or as some translations put it, meekness. Only the humble should attempt to correct another’s wrong-doing. The proud or self-righteous will harshly condemn the sinner, confident that “good Christians just don’t do that kind of thing.” The humble man realizes, “There too, but for the grace of God, I could go.”

Finally, Paul concluded, “For each one shall bear his own burden.” Our need for help from others does not mean that we have no responsibility for dealing with our own sins. No one can argue in judgment, “I would have repented but no one came from the Church to ask me to.” There must be willingness and desire to put sin away and turn to righteousness. We will need the support of other Christians, but we must also “confess our sins” (1 John 1:9) that God may forgive them.

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