Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the Law of Christ. – Vs 2
We are an individualized society. Every man for himself. Pull yourself by your own bootstraps. Maintain your independence. And this attitude has infiltrated the church. Even when it comes to our spiritual walk, we take an individualized approach. It's all about MY walk with Christ. We ask each other, "So, how's YOUR quiet time." You can hear it the kinds of phrases we use, such as, "I have a PERSONAL relationship with Jesus." If Christianity was a sport, spirituality would be a singles event. Now, there's a certain degree of truth to all of this. We DO have a personal relationship with Christ. But God never intended for us to live out our faith in isolation. He placed in the context of community. He created the family and the body of Christ. He left us in this world. We are surrounded by people and He expects us to grow alongside them and with them. The testing ground of our spiritual maturity is community.
Paul seems to share this view, when he tells us to "bear one another's burdens." Paul paints a picture of someone who is weighed down by an oppressive load. The Greek word means "a heaviness, weight, or burden." This individual is staggering under the weight of a load that they don't have the strength to carry. This isn't talking about a physical burden, but it could be an emotional one, or financial, relational, or spiritual. The inference seems to be that we all have some load that we are carrying that is too much for us. No one is immune. And the answer is not to suffer in silence, to go it alone. No, Paul says we are to step into one another's lives and help. But that also means we have to let someone else help us. We have to let them assist us. And most of us find that hard to do.
Paul tells each of us bear the burdens of the one next to us. We are to literally "take up with the hands, take up in order to carry or bear, put upon one's self, or bear what is burdensome." We are to step into their lives and give them a helping hand with whatever it is that they are struggling. That means we have to be close enough to the other person to see their problem. We have to be sensitive so that we can be alert to their need. If we are self-absorbed and self-consumed, we will never notice the needs all around us. But if we will look up and take our eyes off our own little world. we will see that their are brothers and sisters staggering around with all kinds of loads and who, if not helped, will fall under its weight. Listen to what Paul says in Romans:
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. – Romans 1:1-2
There it is again. We are to bear the weaknesses of those without strength. Instead of always pleasing ourselves, we are to please others. The New Living Translation says it this way, "We should please others. If we do what helps them, we will build them up in the Lord." We are to accommodate ourselves to their needs, and not our own. Paul gives further insight into the mindset in his letter to the Thessalonians:
Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14
Fulfill the law of Christ
Paul says when we bear one another's burdens we are fulfilling the law of Christ. We are doing what He commanded us to do. In John 13:34, Jesus said, A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." We are to love as Christ loved. Bearing one another's burdens is one of the greatest examples of the love of Christ lived out on this earth. It is not normal or natural for us to do this. We'd rather get than give. But Jesus says to give to, share with, care for, encourage, and love one another. That takes community. Seeing the burdens of others takes proximity. But it also requires sensitivity. You can't bear if you don't care. You'll walk right past those in need if you don't care about their hurts, sorrows, and sufferings. This will take time. It will require sacrifice. It may get messy. You may find yourself tired from the effort of helping someone else carry their burden. But you'll also find yourself blessed. And you'll discover that as you're helping someone else carry their load, your own load has become a little bit lighter. Why? Because there is someone walking behind you with their hands holding up the burden on your own back. That's the way the body of Christ is supposed to work.
Father, give me a burden to help others carry their burden. Make me a load-bearer, a burden lifter. Help me get my eyes off my own little problems, and begin to see the needs of those around me. May we become a people of grace, who extend the love of God to all those around us as we step into their lives and help them bear the burdens of life. May we love in just the same way that we have been loved. Amen