We continue our study this month of one another passages with a look at Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” This passage comes from a section of Galatians which begins in chapter 5. To appreciate Galatians 6:2, we must see it in this context. Paul commands in Galatians 5:1 to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free . . .” This liberty “we have in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 2:4; 3:26-29). In Galatians 5:13-14, he instructs how liberty is to be used. “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” In verse 16, the command is given to “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
The teaching about Spirit and flesh continues to Galatians 6:10. We learn that the Spirit and flesh are contrary to one another, what the works of the flesh are, and the consequence of engaging in them. The nine attributes of the fruit of the Spirit are listed, and we learn against such there is no law. The last mention of the Spirit and flesh in this section is Galatians 6:7,8 in connection with the law of sowing and reaping. The emphasis in these passages is that a man reaps how/ what he sows. The next verse exhorts us, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” The emphasis in this passage is that a man will reap if he sows. Therefore, instead of losing heart, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
Galatians 6:1-6 Paul mentions some opportunities in which we can go about doing good. These are all imperatives, that is, commands. Therefore they are not optional, but essential. They are also present tense, which means continuous, not occasional, intermittent deeds. The commands are to: restore (verse 1), bear (verse 2), examine (verse 4), and share (verse 6).
To bear another’s burdens is “to take up in order to carry, to endure, to put upon oneself to be carried” (Thayer’s). Burdens is a word that means a heavy weight or load pressing on one. It is the imagery of one sagging or collapsing under a heavy load. We all, including Christians, have burdens or heavy loads that God does not intend to be carried alone. We are commanded to help one another bear it, with a heart of love that wants to serve. In doing so, we are fulfilling (filling full, fill up) the law of Christ (John 13:1-17,34,35; 1 Corinthians 12:26; 1 John 4:7-11).
We may act as if we have everything together in our lives, when the reality is that many are suffering through something and burdened with a load too heavy to carry. It may be struggling with an addiction, suffering an illness or injury, mental difficulties (TBI, some form of dementia), financial issues (debt from unemployment, or medical issues, unexpected large expenses), family issues (relationship problems, children who have left the faith), marital problems (unfaithful spouse or other issues), emotional issues and wounds, discouraged with life not turning out as planned, or simply struggling with age-related issues.
To understand the seriousness that the Lord attaches to our bearing the burdens of one another, consider carefully Matthew 25:34-46 and ask yourself: “On what basis, according to this text, were individuals saved or lost?” I believe you would have to answer: “On the basis of whether they had helped bear one another’s burdens.” Study Acts 9:26-28 and see how Barnabas bore Paul’s burden when Paul returned to Jerusalem three years after his conversion and the brethren were all afraid of him.
What are some ways to help bear the burdens of others? Space will only allow mentioning some without much explanation. (1) Pray with and for them, making mention of their burdens. (2) Visit those shut in or in the hospital. (3) Visit assisted living homes and nursing homes. Many of these people are lonely. (4) Listen — very powerful. (5) Buy them some groceries. (6) Buy a gift card to help with expenses such as gas, food, etc… (7) Take care of a young couple’s children and give the couple some money for a “date night.” (8) Volunteer to drive them to doctor, etc. . . . (9) Be there. Sometimes you do not even have to say a word. I’m reminded of an elderly gentleman who had lost his wife and was overcome with grief. He would sit on his porch and cry at times. A little 4-year old boy went up on the porch and climbed into the gentleman’s lap. He stayed a while and then came back home. His dad asked him what he had said to help the elderly man and the little boy said, “I didn’t say anything. I just cried with him.” Carrying burdens, comforting sorrows, sharing griefs. These are small deeds that display a heart of compassion.
“Each day I’ll do a golden deed, by helping those who are in need.”
Why not bear someone’s burden this week?
— John Priola