Here at First Baptist Church of Murfreesboro, we have been studying Paul’s letter to the Galatians. One of its most instructive lines is Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens and thereby you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Since all Christians have burdens, we are called to bear one another’s. The immediate context in Galatians suggests burdens of temptation and transgression, but the connotation stretches wide enough to include any burden. As Christ bore our burdens of sin and suffering on the cross, we can mutually bear one another’s burdens.
This is how we fulfill the “law of Christ.” Though Paul pits the law against Christ throughout Galatians, here he uses the phrase “law of Christ.” In Paul’s view, the law took a turn when Jesus died on the cross. It was almost as if a new law was passed at Calvary.
A couple of years ago, I attended a parent orientation at my daughters’ elementary school. The School Resource Officer announced that a new law would soon go into effect making it illegal to talk on the phone while driving in a school zone. She said that if she were to catch any parents talking on their phone while dropping off their children or picking them up, she would have to enforce the law.
Similarly, Paul is announcing that a new law has gone into effect, and Christians are to comply. In the first five chapters of Galatians, he has implored Gentile Christians not to obey the Old Testament law in terms of its circumcision requirement and dietary regulations. He now indicates the law that is to be obeyed: the law of bearing one another’s burdens through self-sacrificial love in imitation of the crucified Christ.
The Greek term translated “burden” literally means a heavy weight to be carried. Here, it signals an oppressive burden. By bearing one another’s burdens, we minimize their capacity to oppress us. The weight is lighter when the burden is shared. This is one reason we confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). A confessed sin is a shared burden that’s lighter to carry. This is why we share one another’s sorrows as well (Romans 12:15). A shared sorrow is not as heavy as a lonely one. Shared grief is not as debilitating.
The call to bear one another’s burdens in no way diminishes the summons in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast our cares upon Christ. But as we unload our burdens on Christ through prayer, we can also share our burdens with the body of Christ, the church. The body of Christ has the strength to bear burdens that outsize our individual capacity.
Back in 1988, in the town of Bruno, Nebraska, Herman and Donna Ostry had a barn on their farm that kept flooding. Needing to move it to higher ground, they hatched an unusual plan. Their son, Mike, attached handles around the perimeter of the barn, and the family recruited 328 volunteers to lift the barn and move it by hand. Word got around, and 4,000 people showed up to see if they could pull it off. The barn, which weighed 20,000 pounds, had to be moved 115 feet. As Herman guided the volunteers through each lift and every step, they successfully transported the barn to where it needed to be. When asked afterwards if he had thought it would work, Mike said “100%.” He pointed to the sky and added, “I have faith in our Maker.”
Likewise, Christians can carry heavy burdens together as we exercise faith in Christ.
Pastor Noel Schoonmaker
First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, TN
Brian Mastre, “Nebraska Family Looks Back on Barn Moving Event,” WOWT News, http://www.wowt.com/content/news/Family-looks-back-on-barn-moving-event-414295883.html [accessed July 25, 2018].