Lately, I have been unable to stop considering Galatians 6:2.
It contains one of the most fascinating “conditional statement commands” in all of the Bible, and is eminently applicable for the persisting difficulties we’re all still facing. It starts off, “Bear one another’s burdens.”
That’s the command, one of the more than 40 “one another” commands in the New Testament, which are designed to give shape to the emerging community of Jesus followers. Maybe you’ve seen those “In this house we…” signs that then go on to list certain characteristics (whether actual or aspirational) of the family who put the sign up. Whenever you come across a “one another” command in the New Testament, just imagine it on a sign like that for the family of Jesus followers. “In this house we… bear one another’s burdens.”
And how beautiful is that, by the way?
But also, how necessary is that?
The image that comes to my mind upon reading that command is a weary traveler, burdened down by long miles and a too-heavy load. What does that person need more than anything else? Someone to come alongside them and take up part of what they are carrying. Someone to “bear their burden.”
Here’s the truth: at different times, we will ALL find ourselves weary travelers, burdened beyond what we can bear. But thankfully, in the family of Jesus followers, there is a design for this inevitably. A surpassingly simple solution: don’t try to go it alone. Humble yourself enough to accept the help of others, to allow them to bear whatever portion of your burden they can. Friends, even Jesus himself needed help bearing the burden of his cross to Golgotha (Luke 23:26). Are we more capable than he? I pray we have enough humility to answer that question correctly.
Exodus 17:8-16 contains a beautiful example of Galatians 6:2 in action. God’s people, the Israelities, have come under attack by the people of Amalek. Moses, as the leader of God’s people, bears the ultimate burden of this “heavy load.” But he immediately and humbly invites help in bearing the burden, delegating the task of leading Israel’s warriors to Joshua. He also recognizes that he must ultimately depend on the strength of the Lord for the victory, so he crafts a plan that puts God at the center via his divinely blessed staff. Moses retreats up the hill, staff in hand. When he lifts it above his head, Israel gains ground in the battle below. But quickly, the staff becomes a literal burden that is too heavy for Moses to bear. And here is the surpassingly simple, Galatians 6:2 solution. Exodus 17, verses 12 and 13, “But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.”
Friends, who will lift your arms when they grow tired? Who will help bear your burdens?
Recently, my family and I underwent a very intense six-week stretch of life. It quickly identified itself as a “burden too heavy,” but I am humbly eager to report that the family of Jesus followers we do life with at the Shawnee Campus showed up in a major way to “lift our arms.” To help bear this particular burden. It was extraordinary. Meals. Prayer. Texts of support. A constant stream of “How can we help?” and “What do y’all need?”
We were overwhelmed by, well, love. And that’s how we circle back to the last clause of Galatians 6:2. I started by saying that Galatians 6:2 is a “conditional statement command,” but so far, we’ve only discussed the command.
Here’s the full verse, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Pretty important conditional statement, wouldn’t you say? But it leads us to ask, what exactly is the law of Christ? Thankfully, we are not left to wonder. We have a clear answer. In John 13:34-35, Jesus is addressing his disciples, “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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
When we bear one another’s burdens, when we lift up one another’s arms, what we are ultimately doing is loving as Jesus loved. And what could be better than that?