In Bill Withers’s famous song "Lean on Me," he writes, “if there is a load you have to bear that you can’t carry, I’m right up the road. I’ll share your load, if you just call me.”
While this is a great sentiment, this has been adopted by the church as our philosophy of bearing one another’s burdens. Bearing one another’s burdens is much more than having a shoulder to lean on or carrying someone’s load for them. Bearing another’s burdens is even more than sacrificing your own conveniences for the conveniences of others.
In sacrificing conveniences, we often choose sacrifices that in some way benefit us. We are quick to sacrifice time, energy, money, and other valuable resources for causes and people that fit into our particular bubbles. We support causes that benefit our families or even our socio-economic class. We voice concerns that lift up our own careers and areas of interest. To be more succinct, we rarely bear burdens in a way that could prove to be detrimental to us. Also, to be clear, this is about bearing others burdens. This is not to herald the lie of universalism by saying Jesus is just a way and not the way. The gospel is not a bubble or a simple area of interest. It is life. At the heart of bearing others burdens is a proper understanding of the gospel as the answer to our greatest self-inflicted burden, sin. And truly bearing one another’s burdens, even if they prove detrimental to us, is at the heart of the gospel.
In our hopeless, helpless, lifeless state, God took on flesh, which proved detrimental to Him. He was despised and rejected, beaten and bruised, nailed to a cross and murdered. His death purchases hope, help, and life, for the believer. Isaiah 53:4-5 are clear, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Christ bore what we could not. He bore our griefs, our sin, our death in order that we might have peace. Bearing this burden was agonizing for Christ and yet He bore it.
Paul, in Galatians 6:1-2, is explaining the gentle restoration that should occur when a fellow believer is in sin. After a warning about temptation, he writes, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” It is important to realize exactly what Paul has said here. Bearing one another’s burdens is fulfilling the law of Christ. This is not the old law. This is the new law that Christ has ushered in with His life, death, and resurrection. The law of Christ is also referred to as the law of liberty or law of freedom. Believers have been given liberation from sin to love God with all they are and as a result love others as they do themselves. They have seen their Savior bear their burdens and they worshipfully respond by being a people who bear one another’s burdens.
The act of bearing burdens must start with you knowing your local body and making your life known to them. In other words, devote yourself to real relationships within the church. Do not just give the “good morning” and “how are you” as you pass by. No, invest in this community because it is fulfilling the law of liberty. Be quick to reveal your own sin struggles, your weaknesses, and your anxieties. Be quick to ask heart-penetrating questions that force others into real relationships. When you begin experiencing uncomfortable depth in relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ, instead of pulling away, lean in to fulfill needs that may even leave you wanting. Ideally, churches and small groups within the church would be multi-socio-economic, multi-ethnic, multi-age, so that we can truly bear burdens that extend outside of our comfortable bubble.
Acts 2:44-45 shows the church sharing everything in common. They knew the needs of others in the body and shared everything they had. At FBA, it is not hard to see giving hearts; however, I wonder how different we would look if we began bearing burdens in ways that make us truly uncomfortable. If we invested so deeply in knowing others struggles and taking those struggles on ourselves we would look entirely different. If we deny ourselves enough to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, when it is beyond inconvenient, we would look like the gospel lived out in a community of people whose life is the law of Christ.
This is bearing burdens. This is fulfilling the law of freedom that we have in Christ to live together in such community that is strangely deeper, strangely more uncomfortable, and yet strangely better than all other community.
Believer, put the weight of others on yourself, because Christ bore the full weight of God’s righteous wrath against your sin.