By Norma Jackson Goldman
This beautiful and powerful command is almost buried in the profound, theological New Testament epistle (or circular letter) called Galatians. We understand this “law” to mean loving God above all else and our neighbors as ourselves.
Beyond question, Paul had a deep love for the churches he established on his missionary journeys, and the letter to the Galatian churches provides a powerful testimony to that love. From the very beginning of his ministry, Paul was exposed to conflict, criticism, rejection, and persecution. These challenges were evident in the Galatian churches as well. And Christians today continue to face such challenges in many parts of the world, including our own country.
Churches endure conflicts over the roles of religion and the government. Many criticize the means and motives of other believers as they seek to evangelize at home and abroad. Others reject the claims of Christ, reject the Christian way of life, and reject individual Christians. More believers are persecuted to the point of death today than at any other time in world history, and persecution has even slipped silently into every sector of American life. Today’s Church should clearly identify with the Galatians.
Paul had great concerns for individuals within this group of churches, and an even greater concern for the Body of Christ—the vast collection of believers who followed “the Way” of Christ. He was deeply concerned that they follow closely the instruction he had given them so they could stand firm against false teachings and false leaders trying to undermine his authority and teachings.
Against this backdrop, Paul delivered this simple yet profound command to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
All Have Burdens
No matter what is going on in the world around us, everyone has burdens. No one is exempt, however it might appear to those on the outside. Burdens are not the same; some are clearly heavier than others. But whether it’s a physical ailment, financial issue, family grief, or loss of a job—it’s a burden to be carried. The word burden originated from a heavy weight or stone carried for a long distance, and it can be applied literally, or figuratively. Christ Himself carried a heavy burden, a heavy load of suffering, to purchase our freedom.
All Need Help
Though we all have them (largely as a consequence of living in a fallen world), none is able to bear his burden alone. God never intended we should. One of the most beautiful pictures of His care is the fellowship of believers, through which He planned for us to be surrounded by helpers. Fellow believers are called to walk beside us, sharing our pain and distress, praying for our strength and endurance, and rejoicing with us when the burden or weight is lifted.
Mature Christians play an important role, standing with younger or less mature believers, easing the burdens they bear. Not only do godly helpers bring encouragement and relief, they paint a beautiful picture to the watching world of what it means to be part of God’s family.
In God’s economy, giving is always getting. That means the more we give—self, time, and resources—the more God returns to us. While gaining more is certainly not the objective, we all could share examples of how God more than repaid our feeble efforts with His own style of giving. It’s difficult to take on the stereotype of a crochety, grumpy, pessimistic Christian when we are enthusiastically engaged in bringing hope, encouragement, affirmation, and support to others.
Whose burden will you carry today?
About the Writer: Former magazine editor Norma J. Goldman enjoys a successful freelance career in her retirement. The award-winning writer lives near Houston, Texas. Learn more about retirement options at www.boardofretirement.com.