I want to use Galatians 6:1-10 as the springboard of my thoughts and in particular verse 2 which says “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Two times in the last month, under completely different circumstances, I have had people say to me, “I don’t want to be a burden.” In both cases the statement was made by another Christian. Both times my reply was: “No, How could you be a burden? You are part of our family. This is just what we do for each other.” We always talk about “brothers” and “sisters” in Christ, but I don’t think we often stop to really think about what it means that we are family.
I remember hearing a story about two brothers who were walking one day, and the younger one became tired, so he asked his older brother to carry him. The older boy lifted his brother up in his arms and began to carry him. As he walked closer to their home, a neighbor sniggered and said, “Wow. He must be heavy.” And the older boy replied: “He is not heavy, he is my brother!” It is a cute story, but let us be realistic – the younger boy would have weighed exactly the same if he hadn’t been brother to the other boy. And yet, because he is family, the load seems much lighter.
Now think about your spiritual family. The people you call your brothers and sisters in Christ. Do you really treat them as brothers and sisters? Or are they simply your burden you have to bear? If a physical family bears one another’s burdens, how much more should we, who share an imperishable, incorruptible family tree, bear one another’s burdens? No wonder Galatians 6:2 tells us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”! It is one of the most simple and obvious responsibilities – and joys – of family life! Believers in Christ are fellow-members of His body, which is the Church. All are children of God and all have been born of the Spirit. All have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son. All have received eternal life as a free gift of God’s grace, and all have been granted an inheritance, that is kept for us in heaven. The Lord Jesus Himself explained the distinguishing qualities of this “law of the spirit of life’, which is found in John 13:34 – where we read a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Love for God and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is the fulfilling of the law – but it can only be carried out, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, in the life of a spiritual believer – i.e. a Christian, who is walking in spirit and truth.
Paul is giving instructions to the Galatian Christians about how to live with each other as Spirit-filled people in Christ. In the previous verse, he told them that when one is caught by sin, others should step in to help restore that person to walk by the Spirit again. Now he tells them, and by extension to all Christians, to help carry each other’s burdens. Notice and understand what this means: Being in Christ does not mean we won’t have burdens to carry in this earthly life. We will. One of those burdens is the burden of our temptation to give into sin, and the heaviness of trying to get out of it. Paul wanted us to share that burden and not battle sin and temptation on our own. The term used here by Paul is instructive. Paul made this as a duty of high priority. It was the centerpiece of his admonitions to the Galatian churches. In Galatians 5:14 he reminded them: “The whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” How is that love best manifest? “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2). The first and foremost example of burden-bearing Paul mentions involves dealing with the burden of another Christian’s sin. “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (v. 1). That, of course, is not a different approach from the steps of church discipline Jesus outlined in Matthew 18:15–17. “If your brother or sister sins go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. It merely explains how that process is to be carried out gently and quietly, and it underscores the true goal restoration. In other words, the person restoring the sinning brother is not to approach him as if he were a master over him but meekly — as one who is willing to help shoulder the burden so that the one who has stumbled can get to his feet again.
Verse 2 then simply states the underlying principle as an imperative “Bear one another’s burdens”. Obviously, the principle applies to all kinds of burdens — not merely the burdens of those who stumble into sin. When Paul suggests that burden-bearing “fulfills the law of Christ,” he makes it clear that he has the whole moral law in view. Every act of compassion and self-sacrifice on behalf of our brothers or sisters is a practical means of displaying the love of Christ and thereby fulfilling the moral demands of His law. But the apostle clearly has in mind spiritual, emotional, and temperamental burdens — not physical battle only. The burdens we need to help carry for one another include guilt, worry, sorrow, anxiety, and all other similar loads. Do you want to fulfill the moral requirements of the Law? Love your neighbor. It’s as if he were saying, “You want to observe a law? Let it be the law of Christ. If you have to impose burdens on yourselves, let it be through acts of love toward your neighbor.” If you will do that faithfully, your own burden won’t seem so heavy. Best of all, you will find it easier to keep your focus heavenward, regardless of the trials you suffer in this life.
We carry other burdens, as well, and sometimes we go through seasons where those burdens are too much for us to drag around. Such burdens might include relationship issues, financial problems, illness, difficulty in decision making, or emotional difficulties. God’s Spirit certainly gives us the power to deal with these issues, but another way God intends to provide for those in Christ is by giving us the ability to help each other. One way we can fail in this area is by refusing to allow anyone to see the burdens we are carrying. We can mistakenly think that being a Christian means we should be self-reliant in every way, all the time. In a few verses, Paul writes that we do need to carry the weight of our responsibilities in Christ. But Christians are also meant to help each other with the loads we carry when they become overwhelming. How does helping to carry each other’s loads fulfill the law of Christ? Paul earlier quoted Jesus in saying that the entire law is fulfilled in one word: love (Galatians 5:14). Love is the law of Christ.
The first part of Galatians 6 employs a variety of work-related words to instruct Christians in how to care for others in tangible ways. Christians are to be generous to others as we “bear one another’s burdens”. Yet, in case we are overtaken by pride and imagine that our work on behalf of others excuses poor work of our own, believers must “test their own work” and “carry their own loads” Gal. 6:4–5 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Gal. 6:7–8 say “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” The analogy of sowing and reaping allows Paul to encourage the Galatians to focus on the life of the Spirit rather than the flesh. Sowing in the Spirit involves purposeful effort: “Let us work for the good of all and especially for those of the family of faith” Gal. 6:10 ‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”. Christians are to labor for the common good, in addition to caring for their fellow believers. Surely, if we are to work for the good of others, we are to do it in love that is the law of Christ.