Commentary by Walter Albritton


May 29, 2005


Bearing One Another’s Burdens is God’s Plan for Our Life Together


Galatians 5:22-6:10


Key Verse: Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2


The Psalmist David speaks in Psalm 1 of two kinds of people – the righteous and the wicked. The wicked are blown away like chaff by the wind while the righteous are like trees planted by streams of water. David’s contrast is sharply drawn; the wicked perish but the righteous live and bear fruit. His warning is clear: one is the way of life, the other the way of death. There is no middle ground.

Centuries later Paul contrasts these two kinds of people with much the same meaning and warning, though his terminology is different. Paul describes the wicked as those who live according to the flesh, and the righteous as those who live according to the Spirit. To express it another way, pagans live to please themselves while Christians live to please God. It all boils down to whether life is focused on fulfilling the desires of the flesh or doing the will of God.

This warfare between the flesh and the Spirit continues. There is a war going on and our souls are at stake. Every person is at risk. Each of us must choose sides in this spiritual battle between God and Satan. Paul warns the Galatians that the only solution is to belong to Jesus for those who belong to Jesus “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

This is no game like working a crossword puzzle or playing Solitaire. It is a life or death matter! To treat it lightly is to mock God. Paul knows how easily we may be deceived by the Evil One. Thus his sober warning that we shall reap what we sow. Then come those chilling words that ought to put the fear of God in any thoughtful person: Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit” (New Living Translation).

Paul makes it clear that when we belong to Jesus we are “guided by the Spirit.” About our lives we should ask the question: Who is in control? When the Spirit is in control, the fruit of the Spirit is produced in our lives. Simply put, the Spirit empowers us to love. Those who are not guided by the Spirit “become conceited.” They compete against one another and envy one another.

What does all this tell us about our life together within the Body of Christ? The key verse reveals the answer. As brothers and sisters within Christ’s Body, we are expected to “bear one another’s burdens.” We are to “work for the good” of our fellow Christians at every opportunity. This we cannot do so long as our “flesh” has not been crucified with Christ! Only then can we gain victory over the desires of the flesh. Each of us must decide whether we will live by the flesh or live by the Spirit. There is no middle ground!

Across the years I have known many loving, generous Christians who habitually went out of their way to bear the burdens of others. When others were hurting or in need, they did not wait for a committee to take action. Acting in love, they reached out with rent money, groceries, a car, or whatever assistance was needed. They were doing what Jesus would have done and it was obvious they were guided by the Spirit.

On the other hand, I have witnessed others who claimed to be Christians ignore their hurting neighbors and offer no helping hand. They always had a good excuse for refusing assistance. The truth is they were consumed with satisfying their own sinful desires. There was no fruit of love in their lives because they were not under the control of the Spirit.

John Wesley taught the early Methodists to care for one another and for their neighbors. His counsel was plain: “Do all the good you can.” When we truly belong to Jesus, we follow the example of our Lord who “went about doing good.” Instead of looking out for our own interests, we constantly look for people we can help whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Sometimes the help people need is a listening ear and a caring heart. Sometimes it is a simple word of encouragement. At other times it may be a month’s rent when a person on a fixed income has been overwhelmed by medical expenses.

Paul understood that even the noblest Christians can become exhausted in serving others. However, he has no sympathy for us. His remedy when we are tempted by weariness: resist it! Refuse to be discouraged!  “Do not grow weary in doing what is right”! He reminds us that there is a reward for faithfulness: if we do not give up, we shall reap a harvest because God is faithful!

Ultimately there are only two ways to live. One is the way of the flesh that leads to death. The other is the way of the Spirit that leads to life. One is the way of selfishness, the other the way of love. In the end, love wins. Schuyler Colfax, Vice-Present under President Grant, understood this:

“Man derives his greatest happiness not by that which he does for himself, but by what he accomplishes for others. This is a sad world at best – a world of sorrow, of suffering, of injustice, and falsification. Men stab those whom they hate with the stiletto of slander. But it is for the followers of our Lord to improve it, and to make it more as Christ would have it. The most precious crown of fame that a human being can ask is to kneel at the bar of God and hear the beautiful words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”

He was right. The words on an old plaque in an antique store say it all: “Only one life, twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”

If we truly believe that, we will do our best to live like Jesus.

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