Read Galatians 6:1-10
We fulfill the Law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens. That’s what Paul tells us in our reading today. It’s a fairly cut and dry statement. So what does Paul mean?
Well, first let’s state the obvious: life is filled with all kinds of burdens: Grief, sickness, mental illness, personality disorders, socially awkward tendencies, depression, anxiety, financial troubles, loneliness, marital strife, heartache, poverty, homelessness, hunger, abuse, sexual temptations, anger, failure, loss, arguments, division, divorce, political disagreement, physical disability, addictions.
It’s also a fact of life that we have a tendency to go in the opposite direction of those we know who are struggling with burdens. Sometimes we think: “Here she comes again!” or “I hope he doesn’t talk to me!”
In fairness, a lot of times our avoidance of others who are burdened stems from an uncertainty about what to say or what to do. Other people’s burdens are messy that way, they entangle us and make us feel awkward. It feels easier to just stay clear.
But nothing could be further from Christ. He is the one who laid aside all power and glory and bore the ultimate burden of all—our burden of the sin that had damned us. In His earthly ministry, Christ did not avoid those who were hurting. The Gospels are filled with passages like these:
“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.
This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17)
“Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Indeed, the Bible is clear what God’s response is to our burdens:
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness,to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6)
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)
It stands to reason that the way we treat our neighbor should be similar. Christian love always expresses itself with love for others. And there is nothing more loving than to be concerned when others are struggling—especially fellow Christians and members of our own church family. A Christian at a distance cannot bear another’s burdens. A believer with no contact with others cannot share material blessings with those in need. A self-absorbed Christian is a contradiction in terms.
For these reasons, pastors are right to admonish those who have no desire to participate in worship or the life of the church and isolate themselves, because it means they cannot do what Christians do–loving others.
Believers need each other! Sharing life in this sinful world with other believers is not an option. It’s just what Christians do.
The Greek word used to describe the shared life of the people of God is koinonia. Our best word for it in English is “fellowship.” Koinonia means sharing , all kinds of sharing: sharing in friendship (Acts 2:42), being partners in the Gospel (Philippians 1:5), sharing material possessions (2 Corinthinas 8:4), having fellowship in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9), and sharing life together in the Spirit and the Word (2 Corinthians 13:14). Above all, koinonia is a fellowship with God through Jesus Christ.
Our life is a shared life and so we bear one another’s burdens.
Some questions to ponder:
- In what ways could a church like St. Paul in Thorndale help bear the burden of poverty or suffering in our own community? What new kinds of ministry might we start to meet the needs of our neighbors?
- Sometimes, we can’t always take away suffering. We can’t always pray away suffering. So how do we bear one another’s burdens even when we feel helpless to change their circumstances?
O most gracious and merciful God, Your holy name be praised because You have abundantly furnished and provided me, an unworthy person and a sinner, with all kinds of excess and material things. What have I deserved above others who must pass their lives in anxious want and neediness? Lord never let me take for granted the daily bread that you have provided—clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, family and children, and all I have. Help me to be content even if all should have in life is Your love and my Savior Jesus Christ. Out of love for You, help me be charitable to my neighbor, and share the abundance of grace that You have shown me. Help me not to see only my own needs and what I lack but give me eyes to see my neighbor in his need. Give me words of wisdom, comfort and grace and hands that love to serve others. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.