As I type this, I’m in the safety of my dorm room, while Hurricane Sandy continues to destroy homes and claim lives across much of the East Coast. I pray for all those in harm’s way, and ask that you would join me. God is sovereign, and God is good. And God is calling us to action.
I recently read through the book of Galatians, and was struck by so many things, but this passage is what is sticking out right now. It’s Galatians 6:1-5. Read along with me.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.”
There’s a lot in this passage, and I hope to break it down for us in a real, tangible way. Paul is writing this letter to a church that is struggling to understand the gospel, to understand salvation. This church has struggled with legalism, false teachings and other sins. Paul’s encouragement is for them to help each other out.
In verse one, Paul is telling those who see a Christian friend in sin to restore them “in a spirit of gentleness.” This doesn’t mean that we don’t call sin what it is. We know from God’s Word that we are to put off sin, trusting that Jesus died for all of our sin. We know that we are to rebuke one another when necessary. But we’re called to do this in a way that restores our brother or sister, not in a way that tears them down and makes them feel unloved. They are never unloved. We are to go to them and boldly tell them that they need to repent. They need to confess their sin to Christ and believe the gospel, and through it, seek God’s grace to change. We are to, at the same time, preach the gravity of sin and its consequences, and also the gospel of God’s grace. The gospel doesn’t just tell us our sin is paid for and we’re “off the hook.” The gospel makes our sin look disgusting and paid for, and makes Jesus look beautiful and worthy.
So, share the gospel with each other, in both rebuking and encouraging. Do not tear another brother or sister down if they have gone to the Lord for forgiveness. If God has forgiven them through the cross, we should as well.
We’re also told to watch ourselves, that we don’t fall into temptation. Restoration takes maturity on the part of the restorer, in that they don’t succumb to the same temptations but instead lend a helping hand to those who are weaker.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
How often do we bear one another’s burdens? There’s something about this that seems crazy. It seems weak. We live in a society where it’s all about us. We are extremely “me-centered.” We don’t want to bear one another’s burdens, and we certainly don’t want anyone else to bear ours. We can do it on our own, we say. The truth of the gospel, however, is that we can’t do it. We couldn’t bear our own sins, and we couldn’t make ourselves right with God. Apart from God’s grace, we are dead in our sins. But God comes and tells us what He’s done. He gives us new hearts to respond to the gospel in faith, believing in His forgiveness and righteousness. He gives us the Holy Spirit, so that we can begin to obey Him and walk with Him. We didn’t do any of that.
So what makes us think we can walk each day without Him? And what makes us think we can walk one day without each other? Jesus walked each day, while He was on earth, dependent on God the Father’s will, and He actively sought Him. We are to do the same in our relationship with God, but we’re also told to engage in sacrificial, loving, burden-bearing relationships with one another.
The law of Christ is to love one another. That’s the new commandment He gives us, is to love one another. This isn’t some cheesy emotion. This is real life, everyday encouragement, teaching, correcting, rebuking, reminding, sharing amongst Christian brothers and sisters. This is praying for each other, reading the Word together, and worshiping together. We think we’re something, but Paul says that if we think that way, we’re nothing and we’re deceiving ourselves.
We say other people have too much baggage. Relationships are messy, we say. We think that we have nothing to offer others, because we’re either so far above them, or so far below them. Over the past few years, God has shown me some of the most basic truths and lessons through the lives of small children, new believers, and people that I would have never expected to teach me.
Baggage? Really? We look at a young girl’s life. She’s done things with a boyfriend that she’s ashamed of. She’s tried to find friends in all the wrong places, her parents are angry at her, and she is struggling to find her place in the world. And our excuse for not befriending her and showing her the love of Christ is that she has too much baggage? Or that she’s “too far gone?” Again, read Ephesians 2. Apart from Christ, we’re all DEAD in our sin. It’s not a matter of being “closer” or “farther” away from God. Apart from Christ, we are all DEAD in our sin. How dare we presume to think that someone is too far gone from Christ. She needs to hear that someone cares about her. She needs to hear that we love her and want her to turn from sin and turn to Christ, not just so she can be a better person, but so she can receive true joy in knowing Christ and His love. She does need to hear that she is in sin, but when we preach that, we must quickly preach the gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus and be the ministers of reconciliation, as we’re called to be in 2 Corinthians 5.
Jesus went to the outcasts of society. He went to adulterers, tax collectors, and the sick. Jesus understood that, yes, these people have baggage, but what they need is for someone to come carry the bags for them. He did that. He did that for me. If you’re a believer, He did that for you. He did it for that young girl. What am I called to do in a relationship with someone who may have “baggage?” Act like Jesus and help them carry their bags. Help them understand God’s love for them. Love them like Jesus does. Help them with their problems. Encourage them.
Can I fix it all? No, I cannot. Look at verses four and five. We’re told to examine our own work, and that we’ll have to bear our own load. What the heck, Paul? Which one is it? I think the difference Paul makes here is that while we are called to help each other, struggle with each other, and encourage each other, we cannot save each other. I cannot save the girl with the bags. Only Jesus can do that. We can’t live off of another’s faith. We must have faith ourselves. But we do not walk the road of faith by ourselves.
Bearing another’s burdens requires time, effort, prayer, love, Godly advice, and sacrifice. It will be hard, but Jesus never said it would be easy. Let’s do it. Our focus is on Him who paid for all of our sin, who is our righteousness before God, the One we believe in. We can help each other, whether it’s a struggle with sin, the storms of life, or whatever else it may be. We’re called to do it. We need to preach love, grace, selflessness, and live these out. We need to preach the gospel, to the world and to each other. And through this, we will love each other, honor each other, and obey Christ.
May we bear one another’s burdens. May we love each other as God loves us. May we pray for each other. May we teach each other, and remind one another of the gospel. May we never forget Him who calls us and loves us. May we all continue to trust in Jesus.
If you have any questions, comments, prayer requests, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this post. I will respond as quickly as I can. Hope to write again soon!