June 29, 2017

On Bearing Burdens

Would you say that you care about others? Do you show that care to them, or do you keep it internalized? Maybe you consider yourself too shy to ask about another’s needs, or too busy to do anything about what they may share with you. This, my friends, is sin.

We are commanded to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We know that verse; we’ve memorized it and quoted it and heard it preached – but do we obey it?

Let’s consider the command more closely. Going back to the Greek origin of the words, we find specifically how they are to be understood. The word bear, for instance, means to lift, carry, or take up. The word burdens is synonymous with weights or heavy loads. To translate this injunction literally, we (believers) are commanded to take up and carry the heavy loads that fellow believers are struggling under, the weights that are impeding them.

Now let’s consider the how of this command. How, specifically, are we supposed to carry those loads for each other? How are we to fulfill this responsibility if we don’t know how to carry it out?

It starts with being aware of others. Philippians 2:4 instructs us to “let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We must be others-focused, seeking to encourage and edify rather than to be encouraged or edified, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).

Once we begin to be aware of others more than ourselves, we must actively seek out their needs. This involves initiating conversation, making the effort to ask how they are doing and letting them know you mean it. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t talked to you in a while or if you’re not really part of their “group”; this command does not specify whose burdens we are to bear, beyond simply those of fellow believers.

It also means, when they start talking, we must listen. Their words ought to stay in our head (not go “in one ear and out the other”) and travel down to our heart, gaining understanding on the way. It means asking questions and trying to put yourself in their place, realizing to the fullest what difficulty they are facing and what needs they have that must be met.

And then – and here is the crux of the matter – we must pray. For what good is it, if we notice and ask and hear, but do nothing about it? As we read in James 2:16, if a person has need of food or shelter, “and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” And of course the answer is, absolutely no good at all! So it is if we hear and see the burden, and then choose to walk away and ignore it.

No, friends, we are to PRAY about those burdens. That is how we can take them up and carry them. That is how we bear them for each other. And the verse goes on to say that, by so bearing them, we can thus fulfill the law of Christ – to love one another. We are to be bearing burdens for one another not only because it is commanded, but also because it allows us to fulfill a second command: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14).

So find out the needs of your fellow believers. Listen to those needs with your heart, and understand their pain. And then bear them up in prayer. Pray with all your heart and soul and might for God to work in their lives for their good and for His glory. Labor in prayer for them, spending and being spent on their behalf, until God begins to work and move, and then keep on praying.

Carry the burdens of others in prayer, and so fulfill the law of Christ.