Bear One Another's Burdens

In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul devotes most of his epistle to clarifying the gospel for the Galatian believers who were thrown into confusion by false teachers preaching a perverted gospel (Galatians 1:7). These false teachers were imposing portions of Old Testament law as a requirement for salvation. The gospel Paul preached was quite different. It was a gospel that declared that salvation was by faith alone, in Christ alone and not through our own efforts to be good enough to merit salvation. As God made salvation possible for His creation, even as broken as we were, He showed us the depth of His love. (Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:10).

So, it is not surprising that after clarifying the gospel, Paul clarifies love itself. When we fully grasp that Christ loved us by bearing the burden of our sin on the cross, we understand that to love (as Christ loved) is to bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters in the church. To love one another like this is to "fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). This means that love has new meaning for Christians.

Love Is Not a Feeling

We easily misunderstand love. We feel bad for someone, and we think we have loved them. We feel sympathy and misconstrue it as love. We want to help, but don't. And often soothe ourselves by saying, "I’m so sorry for what they’re going through, but there's nothing I can do." None of this qualifies as love in the biblical sense. Love is defined by covenant and action. Emotion may accompany love, but mere emotion is not sufficient. In fact, true love persists when emotions fail. To serve one another "through love" (Gal. 5:13) and to "fulfill the law of Christ" (John 13:34; 15:12) is to be willing to share in their burden with them. Even to the point of lifting it off them. Even when it's not convenient.

What does that kind of love look like?

How do we bear one another's burdens and love "in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18)? It could be as simple as knowing someone could use a ride to/from church, you offer to take them - even when it's out of your way. When you wonder how someone is doing, you call them or visit - even when you believe you are too busy. When you think of what a financial burden that car repair must have been for your neighbor and you can help do a little bit to ease the pain, you write them a check - even if you know it might mean putting off a purchase for yourself. When you wonder if someone else will help, you remind yourself that you are that someone. You help. Possible scenarios that call us to bear another's burdens are endless. The point is that love isn't content with feelings; it presses on through to action.

Love Marks the Church

The local church ought to be a place of love – not just when we gather, but also when we are going about our daily lives. And Paul gives the church family a special priority: "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." (Gal. 6:10). Just as we easily misunderstand love, we can easily misunderstand fellowship. Fellowship is not based on preferences but on the bond of the Spirit. Our default mode is to care for those like us and to inquire after the needs of those whose company we most enjoy. But the Spirit compels us to bear the burdens of others in the church simply because they are one with us in Christ. Even when it’s hard we are called to love others in the church as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34); we bear the burdens of their weakness, their sin, and their uncleanness - watching less we also be tempted (Galatians 6:1). We see these burdens of our brothers and sisters not as impositions upon our life but as opportunities for our love.

Love Is a Witness to the World

To bear one another's burdens is to "fulfill the law of Christ." This law of Christ is best understood in Jesus' command "to love one another" (John 13:34). Fulfilling this law is a witness: By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another  (v. 35). 1 John 4:12 reads, "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." God intends this broken and fragmented world to see the burden-bearing love of His children for one another. The world need look no further than the church family to see an example of the love of God in Christ. Let’s be the church.

Lord, forgive us for not loving and caring for all people as you do. Forgive us for not loving You with our whole hearts. Forgive us for seeking convenience over service to our neighbors. Forgive us for not sharing in the burdens of others. Empower us, through Your Spirit, to be more faithful and obedient to love others as You have loved us. Amen

Credit: Ron Kelley

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