Carry Each Other’s Burdens
March 20, 2021 | Brian Bill
How many of you remember the TV commercial from the late 80s and early 90s which showed an elderly woman lying on the floor shouting, “Help me, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up?” That catchphrase has become part of our vocabulary but it’s not very funny for those who have faltered, fallen, and feel forgotten.
One of the many challenges during COVID-19 has been the number of people who have either relapsed or lapsed in their spiritual lives. Some don’t know how they’ll make it through another day.
According to the Census Bureau’s Houehold Pulse Survey released last month, the pandemic has created new barriers for people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. Over the past 12 months, nearly 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression…up from 1 in 10 adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019.
Young adults are being hit the hardest. According to this study, 56% of 18–24-year-olds have experienced an increased amount of anxiety, depression, sleep disruptions, and thoughts of suicide. This compares to just 29% of those 65 and over who have experienced these struggles.
We’re continuing in our series called, “One Another.” So far, we’ve learned we’re to care for one another, to be united with one another, and to accept one another. Next weekend our topic will be, “Bearing with One Another.” After Easter, we’ll begin a series on the 10 Commandments called, “Written in Stone.”
Today, our emphasis is on how we can “Carry Each Other’s Burdens” from Galatians 6:1-5: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.”
Before we tackle our text, let’s set the context. In chapter 5, Paul warns Christians not to be in conflict with each other. Check out Galatians 5:15: “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
Galatians 5:26 indicates if we want the body of Edgewood to be edified, we must avoid blasting away at other believers: “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” The word “provoke” means “to challenge” somebody to a contest. Whether we whack away at the weak or are overcome with envy toward those we think are better than us, the problem is we’re too caught up with ourselves.
Undergirding all the “one another” statements is the exhortation to love one another. Interestingly, the “love one another” command is repeated 13 different times! That must mean it’s important.
Self-centeredness is the deadly enemy of all the “one another” statements. The attitude we should have toward people, according to John Stott, is not, “I’m better than you and I’ll prove it” or, “You’re better than me and I resent it,” but, “You are a person of importance in your own right and it is my joy and privilege to serve you.”
Our main idea today is this: We show we care when we bear one another’s burdens. I see four relational responsibilities in this passage.
1. Restore the Broken.
Our first task is found in verse 1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” One paraphrase puts it this way: “If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out.”
Paul refers to his readers as “brothers,” a term which means, “from the same womb.” Born again believers are part of the same family, brothers and sisters with one another. The use of the word “if” helps us think through something hypothetical so we’re ready to restore the broken when it happens.
The word “caught” was used to describe a bird or an animal which had become entangled in a trap. A believer who is caught in sin, is one who has been surprised or suddenly entrapped, with no hope of escape. The picture is of a brother or sister who has been caught red-handed in sin, much like the woman ambushed by the authorities while she was committing adultery in John 8.
In verse 1, the word “transgression” is translated “trespass,” which carries the idea of stumbling or sliding off a slick path, leaving the person stuck in a ditch. It’s the idea of crossing the line. Notice this refers to “any” transgression, meaning it could be big or small.
When we served as missionaries in Mexico, one night we went bowling with our team members. We thought it would be a great way to do some team building. We had a great time, until Beth started throwing strikes. At that point, the fun was over. I stopped smiling and put on my game face. I’ll never forget what happened next.
I lined up and began my approach. As I got ready to let go of the ball, my fingers stuck in the holes and I crossed the foul line, sliding face first down the just-oiled alley! It was a perfect swan dive. I have never seen Beth laugh so hard in her life. I defaulted because I had slipped and crossed the line, and no one helped me back up because they were all rolling on the floor laughing. While I muttered in the gutter, they guffawed.
That’s similar to what Paul is referring to here. A believer, for one reason or another, is suddenly tripped up by his trespasses, and is flat on his face for everyone to see. A good example of this is Peter. He boasted he would never bail on Christ and yet he ended up denying Jesus three times in a row.
The best equipped person to help a fallen follower is one who is “spiritual.” I guess none of the other missionaries on our team were qualified because no one even offered to help me up! If we go back one chapter, we see “spiritual” describes those who walk by the Spirit (5:16), who are filled with the Fruit of the Spirit (5:22), and who keep in step with the Spirit (5:25).
To be “spiritual” is not referring to mystical spirituality but to normal Spirit-filled Christianity. You don’t have to be a super saint to help others. Spiritual people are ordinary people relying on an extraordinary God. The word “you” is plural, emphasizing the obligation of the church body to reach out and help a battered believer.
The fallen one is in need of restoration. The word “restore” is a present imperative, indicating this should be our common practice. It literally means to make something right by bringing it back to its former condition. This word was used for setting a broken bone or mending a torn net in Matthew 4:21: “And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.” Restoration is an integral and necessary part of the healing process. If people experience dislocation, brokenness, or have been torn apart by transgression, they need someone to come alongside them to lift them up.
In 1 Corinthians 5:2, the church is to remove an unrepentant sinner. In Matthew 18:15, the Christian is to reprove the offending sinner. However, in our text, we’re to restore the stuck sinner.
Since God works to bring sinners to wholeness, we should seek ways to do the same.
God Himself seeks the straying according to Ezekiel 34:16: “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak…” Since God works to bring sinners to wholeness, we should seek ways to do the same.
Brothers and sisters, if we are not actively looking for ways to bring back those who are spiritually sidetracked, how will they get back on their feet? Who does God want to restore through you? Is there anyone you can think of right now who is going down the slippery path of sin?
Listen to Jude 22-23: “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire…” I am both challenged and comforted by James 5:19-20: “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
Straying believers need spiritual believers who will come alongside them and mend them. This process must be done with gentleness, which is a fruit of the Spirit. The King James Version uses the word “meekly” which has the idea of doing something quietly and with enormous kindness. When a friend is down you don’t announce it to the world. You don’t try to ruin his or her reputation but instead you touch with tenderness and restore with gentleness.
Listen to 2 Timothy 2:25: “Correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” Romans 2:4 says its God’s kindness which leads a person to repentance.
I must confess, I don’t always get this right. There are times I want to restore someone, but I end up being more judgmental than gentle. Paul struggled with this in 1 Corinthians 4:21 when he wrote: “What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”
If we don’t allow ourselves to feel the pain of people’s sin and approach people with tears in our eyes, then we either do not love the sinners sufficiently, or we don’t hate the sin enough. This is difficult because our default setting is to get angry and judgmental with those who sin differently than we do. On top of that, we often get really upset with those who sin the same way we do!
The last part of verse 1 is a rebuke to our self-righteousness: “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” The phrase “keep watch” refers to taking aim or spying on yourself. Gentleness is born out of our own weakness and wandering hearts. When we see someone else slipping into sin, we should pause and ask the Lord to keep us safe from the sins that slip us up.
James 3:2 reminds us, “For we all stumble in many ways.” 1 John 1:8 declares we all struggle with sin: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Because we’re easily deceived, it’s easy to think we’re somehow impervious to sin. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says we’re just one short step from falling ourselves: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
It’s difficult to know how to respond when a brother or sister falls. Restoration is delicate work and is not for those who feel spiritually superior. It’s a daunting responsibility and its often very messy.
We show we care when we bear one another’s burdens.
2. Relieve the Burdened.
The second responsibility we’ve been given is not only to restore the broken, but also to relieve the burdened. Look at verse 2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the love of Christ.” Interestingly, the phrase “one another” is the first word in the Greek for emphasis. We’re to jointly shoulder each member’s burdens.
The word “bear” is a present active imperative indicating we’re to, “keep on bearing.” Here’s what it means, “to take up and hold; to remove or lift an overwhelming load.” A “burden” is a “heavy weight or freight,” like a huge boulder weighing someone down as they stagger along the highway of life. This may represent any number of things: sickness, a sudden tragedy, personal loss, financial difficulty, broken dreams, a failed marriage, family problems, career setbacks, or the death of a loved one. It refers to something someone cannot carry on their own.
Over 100 years ago, a pastor who used the pen name Ian MacClaren, made this astute observation: “Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.”
I find it significant Paul does not tell us what the burden is or where it comes from. That doesn’t seem to matter. Instead of judging others, we’re to assist them by doing whatever we can for as long as we can. This even includes helping those who don’t like us. Exodus 23:5: “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.”
In that sense, we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Bearing burdens is an act of love. When we help the hurting, we are “fulfilling the law of Christ,” which is summed up in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
In other words, when we see people who have been rocked by the reality of life, or crushed by the weight of the world, we should ask ourselves a simple yet profound question, “What can I do to help bear their burden?”
In the process, we must make sure we’re not putting more burdens on them. Jesus had no tolerance for those who piled people with problems and weighed them down with endless expectations. Some of His harshest words were directed to religious leaders in Luke 11:46: “And He said, ‘Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.’” I certainly don’t want to be guilty of preaching in such a way you leave here more burdened than when you came in.
Fallen followers need the help of faithful followers. Here’s a question: Do you pile people with problems, or do you lovingly lighten their loads?
We show we care when we bear one another’s burdens.
3. Repent of Bragging.
God knows you and I will not restore the broken or relieve the burdened if we’re too full of ourselves. Verses 3-4 challenge us to repent of bragging: “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.” When you notice your brother or sister suffering, don’t be too arrogant to get involved.
It’s so easy for us to look down our noses and think or say something like this,
“They deserve it.”
“She’s so weak.”
“He just can’t handle the pressure.”
“I saw it coming.”
“Maybe they’ll listen to me next time.”
“I don’t want to get involved.”
“I’m just glad it’s them and not me.”
“I would never do something like that.”
Proverbs 26:12 says, “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” 1 Corinthians 10:12 gives us this warning: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
We are quick to condemn, to look the other way, and to pass by on the other side
When we lived in Pontiac, a group of guys from our church led a worship service in the Medium Security Prison. I joined them one Sunday afternoon.
I had two thoughts as I drove up to the prison. First, I was afraid. It didn’t help when I asked the leader if I should take off my tie before I went in. He told me I should. I smiled knowingly and remarked, “I shouldn’t wear a tie so they can’t use it to hang themselves, right?” With a straight face he replied, “No, it’s so they don’t hang you!”
I had a second thought I’m embarrased to admit. As we were ushered into a windowless cinder block room for the service, I felt self-righteous. I looked at the guys in the room and wondered what bad things they had done and began to think I was better than them.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. As 20 prisoners and our team of four stood to sing “Amazing Grace,” the first verse reverberated loudly off the prison walls as the inmates sang their hearts out. I have never heard such jubilant singing in my life:
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
Immediately I was convicted by the conviction of the convicts and saddened by my spiritual smugness. Just then, one of the inmates standing next to me pointed to his chest, broke into a huge smile and shouted, “I’m a new man.”
That wrecked me. While my brothers were worshipping, I was broken and began weeping. Even though they were in prison, they were freer than I was. I was the one locked up by my pride. I was the older brother who had come face-to-face with a group of prodigals who had returned to the Father. As they continued to sing loudly from their hearts, I was invited to the party. That day God’s grace touched me and I went in and joined the celebration.
Brothers and sisters, if we refuse to restore the broken or relieve the burdened, it might be because we think we’re better than others. If you think you’re something special, then you’ll find it easy to condemn. But if you know you’re nothing apart from God’s amazing grace, then you’ll be quick to help the hurting. 1 Corinthians 4:7 sets us straight: “What do you have that you did not receive?” Don’t be deceived – everything you have has been received.
If we were more conscious of our own sins, we’d be more forgiving of the weaknesses and failure of others.
If we find it easy to condemn it may be because we have an inflated view of ourselves. If we were more conscious of our own sins, we’d be more forgiving of the weaknesses and failure of others. We’re not as together as we think we are, and our faltering friend isn’t as bad as we think he is.
One of the many things I love about our Celebrate Recovery ministry on Friday nights is how people introduce themselves before telling their story. While there are slight variations, it’s common to hear something like this: “My name is Joe. I’m an unashamed follower of Christ, who has been saved by God’s grace. I have freedom from alcohol and I’m currently trusting Christ for freedom from PTSD.” Isn’t it refreshing to hear people talk about their struggles and the burdens they are carrying? It reminds me of the phrase, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.”
We show we care when we bear one another’s burdens.
Restore the broken. Relieve the burdened. Repent of bragging. I see one more responsibility we have.
4. Respect Your Boundaries.
Look at verse 5: “For each will have to bear his own load.” While verse 2 refers to an overwhelming burden we cannot carry by ourselves, the word “load” in verse 5 describes a soldier’s backpack. It’s something small and light enough for everyone to carry. It’s the difference between a backpack and a boulder. Notice, each has to carry their “own” load. We’re to help bear what is too heavy for another human to handle alone but we cannot carry someone else’s responsibility.
Some of you may have the tendency to take on everyone’s cares and concerns and try to fix them. Perhaps you do this out of genuine compassion or maybe you have a little co-dependency going on where you need to feel needed. Whatever the case, don’t carry what is not yours. You were never designed to carry the world on your shoulders. That’s Jesus’ job. If you need help in this area, Celebrate Recovery has a group for you.
Others of you may struggle in the opposite direction. Maybe you’re burned out or you’ve just been burned, and you frankly don’t care about people’s problems. While we’re not expected to carry another person’s backpack, be careful about backing too far away from people who are trying to lift loads they cannot bear.
As a way to apply what we’ve learned today, I’m going to ask an application question which corresponds with each of our responsibilities.
- Restore the broken. Who do you know who is broken today?
- Relieve the burdened. What one thing can you do to relieve their burden?
- Repent of bragging. How is God humbling you right now?
- Respect your boundaries. Where do you need to build up your boundaries?
Aren’t you thankful Jesus is in the restoration business? He doesn’t give up on us when we grieve Him. He doesn’t stop loving us when we can’t lift our load. He pursues us even when we’re proud and He redirects us when we operate without boundaries.
We show we care when we bear one another’s burdens.
A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.
- An empathetic person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.”
- A self-righteous person said, “Only bad people fall into pits.”
- A gossip inquired, “Give me all the details.”
- A self-pitying person said, “You should see my pit.”
- A judgmental person said, “You deserve your pit.”
- A psychologist noted, “Your parents are to blame for your pit.”
- A self-help group said, “Believe in yourself and you can get out of the pit.”
- An optimist said, “Things could be worse.”
- A pessimist said, “There’s nothing worse than this.”
Have you fallen and don’t know how to get up? Have you crossed the line and find yourself flat on your face? Do you want to be free from your burdens? I have some really good news for you!
Listen to these words from Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Are you tired of laboring to find purpose and meaning in life? Are you finally ready to repent of your sins which have weighed you down and created distance between you and God? Jesus offers you rest, but you must come to Him to be reborn. If you are weary and burdened, you qualify for Christ to save you! In the place of your heavy burden, His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Surrender to Him right now and ask Him to save you from your sins. If you’re ready to come to Him for salvation, you could pray this prayer.
“God, I confess I am a sinner and cannot save myself. I’m in a hole I can’t get out of on my own. I surrender to You and now I come to You, giving you the boulder of my burdens. Thank You for rescuing me by dying on the cross for my sins and rising from the dead on the third day. I believe You did this for me and now I receive You into my life. Make me born again and forgive me for my sins. Come into my life and give me the tenacity to fully follow You as Your disciple as You use me to help carry the burdens of those who are being crushed by problems and circumstances. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.”