Carry Each Other’s Burdens
Key verse 2
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
What is my greatest struggle as a Christian? Is it to fight my sinful nature all the time, or is it to fight the temptations that assail my body and soul all the time? As much as I can say to you that, yes, I struggle at times in fighting temptation because the Lord commands me to struggle even to the point of shedding blood, this is not my greatest struggle as a Christian. My greatest struggle as a Christian is to live by faith in him from first to last, from beginning to end. That is my good and worthwhile struggle— a struggle that is worthy of the Lord who bought me with his blood and set me free to serve his purpose. My struggle is to live by faith— meaning that I struggle to surrender myself daily to the will of God, to the Holy Spirit of my Lord Jesus who lives in me. That is a worthy struggle, worthy of the Christian that I am and of the Christ who saved me. I struggle to surrender myself to the will of God. It is my prayer that daily I bend my will to the will of God. Now, that’s a good struggle! If you ask me, where do you find the will of God so that you might bend your will to it? I can tell you that it’s not hard to find the will of God. I find his will when I study the Bible from my heart and when I pray according to it to obey it. And when I find out his will, then I struggle to bend my will to his will and then let the Spirit of Christ who lives in me work out his purpose in me— which is to bear the fruit of the Spirit in my life and thereby to reflect his glory. When I struggle with my anger or with my bitterness or with my despair, I gain nothing. I cannot win! And even if I think I have these things under control, it is only a feeble human effort which soon will dissipate and they will soon surface again. But when I struggle to bend my will to his will, then the Spirit who lives in me bears the fruit of patience and forgiveness and of hope and all that I cannot accomplish on my own. The problem with many Christians is that they waste their lives struggling against their sinful nature, or struggling to produce the fruit of the Spirit which only the Spirit can produce. That is the lesson we learned last week when we looked at the last part of chapter 5. The Holy Spirit tells us: “Live [walk] by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (16) He tells us: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (25)
Look at the fruits of the Spirit which Paul lists in verse 22. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” A remarkable assortment of virtues that no man can hope to produce on his own. But the Spirit living in him can. And that is the hope we have in Christ Jesus our Lord, that when we live by the Spirit, there will be an outpouring of these virtues from within us. Someone might say, “that’s too good to be true” or “isn’t this a little too farfetched”? But I tell you that your lack of faith and trust in the word of God is appalling and will be your undoing. You will never achieve your purpose in God if you do not believe the word of God which tells you that life in the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit is as possible and powerful and real as the sun that rises every morning. We only need to believe— to put aside our own unbelief and skepticism and fully trust the word of God which paves the way for us to be in the image of the Son he loves. We only need to believe and trust the Holy Spirit who is sanctifying us day after day and creating in us the Christian that you and I— not might be— but the Christian we will be when God is done with us. The Christian life is not easy, that is for sure. But Paul has confidence that the words he speaks to the Galatians will empower them to defeat the works of the flesh, and to abide the fruit of the Spirit.
Now, in chapter 6 he gives advice to show the Galatian believers how to practically live by the Spirit, and bear the fruit of the Spirit. He talks about someone who has fallen into sin. But it’s indeed sobering to think about what Paul’s focus is in this situation. He does not focus on the one who sinned. He focuses on those who would help him recover. The greater burden falls on them. They must be careful to act by the Spirit in order to produce the fruit the Spirit would have them produce. In other words, someone has fallen into sin, but Paul is more concerned with the way it is handled. How we treat him determines what kind of Christians we are— what kind of church we are— are we a Christian and a church that lives up to the Lord’s character and image? In these few verses we will think a lot about the word “burden” and how it relates to our Christian lives and behavior. Do we bear the fruit of the Spirit when we are faced with a burden, or do we react with the sinful nature.
Before we get into the passage in detail, let me read the passage to you in a paraphrase (the italics are mine). Look at verses 1-5. 1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (You might be tempted to look down on him) (Rather) 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (The great temptation here is to think yourself better than the other person— and that makes you proud and too self important— when in truth you are really nothing outside of Christ. You would be deceiving yourself.) (Let me give you a word of advice.) 4Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else. (In other words, keep a close tab on your own actions without comparing yourself with others) (because each one should bear the responsibility for his own life before God) 5for each one should carry his own load.
Read verse 1. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” Who is that “someone”? Well apparently any Christian man or woman in the church. And who is the “You who are spiritual”? Again, apparently it’s anyone who thinks they are spiritual, and it is staggering how many in the church think they are spiritual. The man or woman sinned, or as the original would say, “overtaken in a trespass” or “transgression.” In a moment of weakness he did what he should not do, he trespassed, and now everyone knew about it, especially the “spiritual” group among them who were always on the lookout for correcting those who sin by transgressing the law. And the spiritual folk in the church might have thought he needed to be disciplined and beaten down either verbally or with baseball bat, for he had made a huge blunder. The problem with the churches in general is that there is always the danger of not really wanting to restore the transgressor. Instead he becomes the target of criticism and of condemnation. But Paul tells the church that if a believer sins or is overtaken in a trespass, it does not mean that the believer has lost his salvation or standing in the Lord. So the spiritual Christians in the church should restore him and they should do so gently. That is the responsibility of those who are spiritual.
How do you restore him gently? One of the wonderful things that are said of Jesus in prophesy is found is found in Isaiah 63:9. It says of him: “In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” The prophesy may also read like this: “In all their affliction, he was not an adversary” (KJV) meaning that the Lord Jesus walks with you and me in life. And when we transgress and stumble and fall down, he does not does not stumble himself nor turn against us. He is there besides you and me, and he picks me up, brushes aside the dirt on me from the fall, and tells me to go ahead and start again. It is so comforting to know that you and I have Someone so near to us who is not affected by our stumble and fall, but who gently pulls us back up and bids us to continue the journey.
The word “restore” here in verse 1 is a verb which means the same thing as “setting a broken bone”. When one of the children of God falls down and breaks a leg, what should the other believers do? Should they walk away and leave the person in pain? The Holy Spirit tells us: “you who are spiritual should restore him gently”… set his broken bone. Get him back on his feet again. But do it “gently” or with a “spirit of meekness” (KJV). What does it mean, in a spirit of meekness or gentleness? There are many ways to consider what this means. But let the Bible speak for itself. First of all, it means “Do not regard him as an enemy” (2 Thess.3:15) It also means to “forgive and comfort him” (2 Cor.2:7) I think that it is easier to regard him as an enemy, especially if he had done something terribly wrong which causes damage to the church and the family of believers. It is hard to forgive him and to comfort him because one who has transgressed is usually laden with guilt and shame, which at times develops into bitterness and anger against the church and the family of believers. It is easier to consider him an enemy of the church and to gossip about him, with no intention of restoring him, let alone to restore him gently. But that is not what the word of God tells us who are spiritual to do. The word of God tells us to restore him with a spirit of meekness— gently. A gentle spirit is a spirit of love and understanding, a spirit of humility which knows the love of God and the abundance of grace the Lord has for all his children. If I am self righteous because I know how to abide by the laws of God— if I depend on my own will and strength in keeping with the laws of God— then it might be easy to consider the transgressor like an enemy who has infiltrated my comfortable boundaries. It might be easier to criticize him and let him suffer his transgression. But if I know that I am a forgiven sinner who stands only by the grace of God, then I might be gentle in picking him up and restoring him according to the will of God.
Another extent to what “restore him gently” might be is found in Read verse 2. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” In the Bible there are some eleven different words that are translated by our English word “Burden”. What this means is that there are all kinds and sorts of burdens. Not all of us are rich but we all have burdens. Not all of us have health, but we all have burdens. Not all of us have talents but we all have burdens. Some of us might not have a hand or a foot or an eye or even good looks. But we all have burdens. We might not have anything in common with one another but we all have burdens. Even children have burdens. We all have burdens but not all of us have the same burdens. Yet most of us believe that our burdens are the hardest burdens and the heaviest to bear. And most of us believe that we have many burdens to bear in life. The subject of “burden” here is very much the focus. Paul here tells us something very true about burdens. He divides them into two categories. The first category of burdens are those burdens which we can share with each other, “carrying each other’s burdens”. And the second category of burdens are those burdens which we cannot share, as Paul tells us in verse 5. “For each one should carry his own load” or “burden” (KJV).
In verse 2 the burden is something heavy to bear. And its true that a burden is only half as heavy when carried by two people. Of course none of us can bear the burden of sin by our selves. Nor can anyone else help us carry the burden of our trespasses. God has appointed only One Man who is able to bear that heavy burden of sin alone on our behalf and that is Jesus. Jesus put it best when he said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) And that is what Jesus has offered us, to carry the burden of our sins on himself, because we ourselves cannot carry them regardless of who we are and what we do in this world— sin is not a burden that any man can carry by himself. Sin is the heaviest burden of all burdens in this life. You cannot see it with the naked eye, and others may not be able to see you carry it, but you and I can feel, or have felt, the heavy burden of sin on the shoulder. When men sin, it weighs them down with all sorts of heavy burdens. There is the burden of guilt, and of shame. Most people on earth are weighed down continuously with the burden of their sins reflecting in them unbearable guilt and shame. There is the burden of fear of punishment. Most people also are carrying the heavy burden of punishment, because sin demands punishment. Even if they say they don’t believe in God, the sense of punishment weighs them down. No one can carry the burden of sin on his own, nor can anyone carry another man’s burden of sin. In this sense, we are the most lonely and tragic people on each, because each human being is shut in with the burden of his or her own sins. And the nature of this burden of sin is that it only gets heavier, and lonelier in one’s inner being. But Jesus invites those who would confess that they are carrying a burden of sin to himself because he alone is able to unburden them from the heavy burden of sin. Jesus our Lord has taken the burden of sin away from anyone whose faith rests in him. Those whose burden of sin has been lifted, are set free from the burden of guilt and condemnation. That is when the Spirit of God fills their hearts and begins to guide them in a new burden of life in Christ. That burden is easy and light because we do not have to carry it alone, but the Lord Jesus carries it with us. That is what Paul has been talking about when he tells us to walk by the Spirit.
Anyway, the burden of sin cannot be carried either by ourselves nor can anyone else carry it with us or for us. But there are burdens we can carry for each other. There is a burden of our faults and mistakes and shortcoming, and failures and such. Then there is the burden of grief, and the burden of sorrow, and the burdens of the many tensions of this life that we accumulate as we live. And it is so easy to fall into one of these burdens, for we do that all the time. We fall into despair, we make mistakes, we have faults that we are ashamed of, we suffer from the burdens of all the griefs and anxieties that this life piles on our shoulder and weighs on our hearts. What if one of us has fallen to one of these burdens and has trespassed by making a mistake or by exposing his shortcoming leading to failure, and its all out into the open, what do we do with him? Paul tells us exactly what we do with him. This is the Christians family, the household of God. This is no ordinary place where men who are strong beat down those who are weak. Nor is it a place where the smart ones outwit those who are not so smart. Or a place where mistakes and trespasses are treated with shame and condemnation. That is the world, and we are the household of God. And in the household of God, we must “fulfill the law of Christ.” We must carry each other’s burdens and do it gently. Paul has spent chapter after chapter to free us from the law in order to set us on a path to freedom in Christ. All of a sudden he tells us that we ought to abide by, obey, fulfill the law of Christ. How is that? It is so because the Lord freed us from the burden of the law and bound us to his own burden, the law of love and all that he has taught us in the gospels and in the epistles that we should do. He has bound us to himself so that the law of Christ, the love of Christ, and his gentleness and all the fruits of the Spirit might be manifest in and through us for his own glory.
Carry each other’s burdens, the law of Christ tells us to do. Carry each other’s mistakes, and faults, and shortcoming, and failures, and griefs and sorrows and all. Share together the burden of each other, until the love of Christ in each other is thoroughly manifest and the love of Christ in each of our hearts heals our hearts and the hearts of our family members in the house of God. “Carry each other’s burdens” and do not add burden to burden to burden by avoiding or criticizing or judging or alienating or complaining about each other. This is our mandate from God that we share in— carry— each other’s burdens. That is what Christ has died to bring about in our lives, to make us like him, a burden sharer. Someone who can share the burden of others, as Christ has shared in our burdens, as Christ has borne with each of us from first to last. And this teaching is for all of us, not just some of us. Christ has laid this burden of carrying each other’s burdens on all of us. I have borne some of your burdens and you have borne many of my burdens. I am overbearing and rude, and at time insensitive, I am demanding and so often I take your love for granted. But I thank God for you because you have borne them all with me. I bore your burdens when you were young and innocent, I carried them as a father carries his children’s burdens even as I made mistakes and failed many times. And now you carry my burden because you have grown to know the grace of God which bears our burdens, and your love has grown as well. That is what we do as a family in Christ. But of all the burdens I have given to others, there is no burden as heavy as the one my wife has to carry daily for me in her own life. Yet she bears it to me, even though there is no one else she can share it with but with Christ.
In God’s family, we need to carry each other’s burdens. We should be able rather than criticize and condemn each other’s failings and mistakes, to carry each other’s burdens in the love of Christ. We cannot do it, but the Love of Christ alone can help us do so. In love, we can forgive, and love and share with one another. In times of difficulty, there is nothing as precious as having a friend, a son, a daughter in the Lord, a brother or sister, (not a condemner) to share my burden and your burden. But if I have no one willing to carry my burden because my burden offends others, then I can come to Christ who always carries the worst of my burdens. But Christ has given us each other to share burdens that we are able to share with one another. We cannot escape this truth! There is no excuse good enough before God for you and me not to carry each other’s burdens— nor to find a way around it. It is our duty, rather our privilege to carry each other’s burdens. He has commands us who are “spiritual” to carry each other’s burdens and to gently restore each other. We can do this when we walk by the Spirit. But if we do not or cannot do that, because our pride is in the way, something is terribly wrong with our faith and our relationship with Christ. We cannot say we have a relationship with Christ, and shut off our family who is hurting around us and needs us.
Here is the warning, in a sense, the danger which Paul lays down for us who must fulfill the law of Christ, loving one another and sharing one another’s burdens. The danger is that rather than bearing each other’s burdens, we look down on one another, and compare ourselves with those who have more failings and trespasses, and think that we come out better. Read verses 3-5. “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.” What Paul is saying here is to shed light on why you and I might not fulfill the law of Christ by carrying each other’s burden. And the reason for that is pride, and self importance, and arrogance that comes from comparing one to another and looking down on others. Pride of heart, and self importance, thinking that we are something spiritual, something better, something more grounded, something more sophisticated morally or spiritually or humanly than others in the family of believers is a grave trespass, a grave sin, a grave falling than everything else. It’s like falling from grace, because once we stand in grace, we stand in his grace alone, and shed ourselves off as nothing. Those who compare their own actions to other’s— and rather than giving thanks to God for his grace and mercy— end up pointing a finger at those whose actions fail at times— those have a problem with God’s grace. They end up living in their own achievements, in their own success, in their own superior ground above the rest of God’s children. Paul warns us in verse 1 by saying, “but watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” It is indeed a great temptation to look down on those who are weaker. It is a great temptation to criticize them and to abandon them to their own sins and failings rather than to carry their burdens. It is a serious warning to us. We should say: “Lord you carried the burden of sin I could have never carried on my own. You loved me and took me into your family when I was nothing. Help me remember this. Help me carry other’s burdens in and through your love.”
There is a burden that we cannot share with others, nor can anyone carry for us. As we said before, the burden of sin is not something I can carry on my own nor anyone else can carry for me or with me. But there is a burden that only I can carry and God bids me carry it. Read verse 5 “For each one should carry his own load.” You can carry my sorrow and failing and share it with me in the comfort of Christ. But you cannot carry the burden of my life with me. This burden I alone must bear before God. There are those who have shrugged off the burden of their own life and they live as if there is nothing better in life than to have fun. Others shrug off the burden of their own life by taking no responsibility for their actions, thinking that life must serve them and their needs and desires alone. We see that a lot these days in this generation where people young and old, just don’t care how they live and what they do, as long as they are doing what they want to do, and getting from life what they think life owes them. But that is a deception. God gave me life and I must bear the responsibility for my life. The Bible tells us that the day will come when each person must stand before God and give an accounting for their lives. Christians and non-Christians will stand before God to be judged for their lives, how they carried the burden of their own life before God. Jesus even said this: “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36) Surely the burden of life, what we do with our lives, what we believe, how we live, how we obey or disobey the Bible, how we view Jesus, and all that, is a burden no one can carry for us. No one can carry my life responsibility for me. As much as a father or mother would love to carry the burden of their child’s life, he or she must carry that burden alone, and give an account to God for it alone. So in a family of believers, in the church of our Lord, it is better to carry each other’s burdens, not only because the Lord wills it, but because we understand what a burden it is to carry one’s own life burden before God.
“Lord, if it were not for you, my life could not possibly have stood a chance at your judgment throne. Thank you for taking my place on the cross and giving me a new life to live by the Spirit for your glory. Help me, then, to remember that and willingly carry other’s burdens.”