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Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Bear One Another's Burdens

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. (Gal 6:1-5)
The New Testament is full of "one anothers". We are to love one another (John 13:34-35), be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50), outdo one another in showing honor (Rom 12:10), serve one another (Gal 5:13), and on and on. Lots of them. One of those "one anothers" is right here in this passage. "Bear one another's burdens." (Gal 6:2) What is he talking about?

The command is not in a vacuum. He starts with the primary "burden" in view -- transgression. "If anyone is caught in any transgression ..." (Gal 6:1). So the idea is that the burden we need to bear for each other is avoiding or recovering from transgression -- sin.

How are we at doing that? We seem to be pretty good at pointing it out, but is that "bearing one another's burdens"? Seems more like piling them on. Paul specifies restoration rather than accusation and "a spirit of gentleness" rather than arrogance or "righteous indignation". Paul includes the caution to "Keep watch on yourself, less you too be tempted." We all share in the problem of temptations. Sometimes we can easily see a brother caught in a transgression because it's the very temptation we suffer from ourselves. Is Paul's approach our approach in bearing one another's burdens?

Paul ends the thought with something that appears contradictory. He told us to "Bear one another's burdens", but ends with "Each will have to bear his own load." Now, hang on, aren't those opposites? No. Paul suggests that your job is to bear their burden of sin and your own. Now, that may sound like a lot, but if we're doing this right, it is also the responsibility of every other believer to bear the burdens of others as well as their own, so we end up in a situation where we plan to do it by ourselves but find ourselves supported on all sides. And that's a good thing.

Frankly, I don't think we're very good at this. Specifically, I don't think we're very good at bearing one another's sin burden. We are too judgmental when we ought to be supportive. We are too self-righteous when we ought to be empathetic. We are too concerned about our own sin when we ought to be seeking help from others on it. We are too concerned about what others think of us and not concerned enough about following Christ. As a result, we are too often beaten in our battle with sin. We are called to outnumber and overpower the enemy, but instead we are isolated and alone.

How's that working for you? Rather than "Do It Yourself" (DIY), have you tried Paul's solution?

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