(Read Galatians 6)
In 2016, Abbey D’Agostino, a collegiate All-American middle-distance runner, tore her meniscus just months before the Olympics but recovered in time to compete. She was sidelined for several months by a stress fracture in her back two years earlier. During a qualifying heat of the 5000-meter race at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she collided with New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin. They both fell to the ground. Instead of getting up and continuing the race, D’Agostino helped Hamblin to her feet and encouraged her to finish. Both runners eventually completed the race, and their sportsmanship earned them worldwide acclaim.
With over a mile to go on an injured knee, D’Agostino helped up her competitor. “Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way. This whole time here he’s made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance — and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it.”
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Paul wrote Galatians to the churches in Galatia, which were influenced by false leaders teaching that salvation could be earned by keeping the law of Moses. A group of Jewish Christians had come to Galatia and were teaching that Gentile believers needed to observe certain Jewish customs, such as circumcision and adherence to Jewish dietary laws, to be saved. This teaching caused confusion and division among the believers, and Paul was concerned that it was leading them away from the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
In response, Paul wrote this letter to address the false teaching and to reaffirm the message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. It was a call to unity in love for God and one another despite outward differences. Paul taught through this letter that salvation is a gift from God that cannot be earned. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ; nothing else can save us.
The word “bear” in this passage can be translated as “carry” or “support.” When we bear one another’s burdens, we are not simply offering sympathy or condolences. We are taking on the weight of someone else’s problems and helping them to carry them.
Bearing another’s burdens is a command, not an option, for a Christian. It has significantly more meaning than just helping someone out. It is fulfilling the law of Christ, the law of love, summarized by Jesus when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) When we help each other, we demonstrate Christ’s love in action, and we are living out His example of sacrificial love. Lifting someone else is the most effective way in which we can build community. It’s not an act of superiority or self-indulgence. It’s empathy, compassion, humility, and service.
Carrying each other’s burdens is a lifelong process — a continuous commitment to being available to others. Consider Healthcare workers who tirelessly give of themselves to care for others, despite the risks. Foster parents provide their children with a safe and loving home, often sacrificing their time, energy, and resources. For many years, my sister gave so much of her life to be a caregiver for my mom when she could not care for herself. It was a heavy burden for her as she provided physical and emotional support and demonstrated selflessness and compassion at a significant personal cost.
If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.
Here, Paul warns us against pride and self-deception. It is easy to become overconfident in our abilities, accomplishments, and understandings, but this kind of thinking leads us away from God and creates barriers between ourselves and others. God calls us to approach one another with humility and a willingness to serve, recognizing that we are all equal in God’s eyes.
God uses the Bible to teach us. He wants us to know the importance of mutual support and humility within the Christian community. By carrying each other’s burdens while avoiding pride, we live out the law of Christ and grow together in love and faith.
Bearing one another’s burdens is not always easy. Seeing someone we love struggling can be challenging, and it’s often difficult to know how to help. But it is important to remember that we are not alone in this journey. God is with us, and He will give us the strength to help others. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), and when we bear one another’s burdens, we are doing just that.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Reflecting on this passage, I realized that Jesus meant it as a general statement about love and sacrifice for all people, not just those we consider our friends. Other passages from Jesus support this thought. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)
During Passion Week, many churches re-enact Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross for Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John mention that Simon was ordered to take the cross because Jesus was no longer physically capable. The Gospel of Mark identifies Simon as the father of Alexander and Rufus, suggesting that he and his family may have been known to early Christian communities. Simon didn’t want to carry the cross for Jesus, but he did. He bore the burden of someone whom he didn’t know. It changed him. This kind of service can’t help but change us. Some scholars also speculate that Simon’s experience of carrying the cross may have led him to become a follower of Jesus.
Of course, bearing one another’s burdens does not mean we must solve everyone else’s problems. It simply means we are there for them, offering support and encouragement. We can do this by listening to them, praying for them, and offering to help when needed.
Jesus paid the highest price. He sacrificed the most so that we can receive His total gift of grace. He bore a burden we cannot bear for salvation we don’t deserve. Jesus showed His love to His friends (all humanity) by taking our burden. He did it out of love. Likewise, we should look for and be open to opportunities to love and support other people in need. It’s not a matter of doing what’s right or saying, “Look at me.” It’s not a works-based fulfillment to earn favor. It shows the fruit of our spirit, it’s about living the law of Christ. It’s about love.
If you are struggling with a burden, please reach out to anyone for help. Many people care about you. You are not alone.
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
- How can you bear the burdens of others? Listen to someone who is struggling. Simply listen to them. Pray for someone who is going through a difficult time. Prayer is a powerful way to show support and offer hope.
- Think about your life. What are some ways that others have helped you?
- How has God shown you His love through others? Pray that you can be a source of love and light to others.
Where else in your life can you live out the teachings of Christ? Look for next week’s Devotion.