Meditations for Troubled Times
“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
When thinking about John Bunyan, we often remember him as the writer of Pilgrim’s Progress or well-known Puritan preacher. However, did you know he was also a tinker? This means he traveled around fixing pots and pans. He carried 17th century kitchenware and tools, as well as a 60-pound anvil, on his back. It’s no wonder that depictions of Bunyan portray him as a muscle-bound man. Yet, do you know what would have made it easier for him to do his job? A friend to accompany him and to help carry his load.
This is what Paul tells the Galatian churches to do. He calls them to “bear one another's burdens.” They were to help carry the weight of fellow Christians. What might have been dragging them down? It could have been struggles with sin, fear from circumstances, anxieties over finances, or loneliness because of imposed social distancing. Concerning these weights, Paul declares that burden-bearers are needed. In fact, he gives a Holy-Spirit-inspired imperative. This means that self-sufficiency in the church is a myth. I need you, and you need me. This was true before COVID-19, is true now, and will be true for the rest of our days. “Lone Ranger Christianity” is inconsistent with the Christian faith. Paul needed other believers, such as Timothy, Titus, and Luke, and the same goes for us. We need to be both burden-sharers and burden-carriers.
What keeps us from obeying this command? Selfishness, laziness, feelings of inadequacy, and a lack of faith in God all contribute to failing to bear the pressures of fellow Christians. What, then, should be our motivation? Paul says, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The apostle uses a word for “fulfill” that simply means to conform to a standard or following a pattern previously set forth in Christ. Paul’s point is that Jesus bore our burdens of sin. He took the heavy load of guilt and condemnation off our backs and put them upon himself. He then eradicated our mountains of sin, throwing it off at his resurrection, and it will never come our way again. With a grateful heart, we are to follow Christ’s pattern. We are to bear the hurts, struggles, sorrows, and pressures that our fellow Christians are facing in our current circumstances. We are to ease the journey of our fellow believers by lightening their loads.
Think of five people each week that you can check up on, see if they are in need, and then seek to come alongside of them. (Don’t forget to include the people you live with!) Your support might take the form of an encouraging word, a meal, a conversation letting them know you care, an act of service, a bit of wise counsel, a prayer, or a passage of Scripture. Whatever it is, you will help to ease their burdens and fulfill the law of Christ. You will imitate your Savior.