Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves. Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others. Each person will have to carry their own load.
Galatians 6:2-5 CEB
In this passage, Paul is writing to a fledging church in Galatia, a church that he had planted and nurtured, yet he was still trying to get them to grasp what it was to be a community of the faithful—a body of Christ. In verse 5 we hear Paul telling the faithful in the church that each of them has personal responsibility for their lives, each must carry his or her own load. And how true that is.
Yet look back at the second verse of Paul’s passage. It says that in order to fulfill the law of Christ we should bear each other’s burdens. Now what is the point that Paul is trying to get across? Seems like he is contradicting himself. In the same passage he says that we should bear each other's burdens yet we are responsible for our own load. Or as one translation says, everyone must carry his or her own pack.
Are you familiar with the Good News Bible? I think it came out in the 60s and was intended to be a more up-to-date presentation of the Biblical word. What I remember about the Good News Bible is the very elementary illustrations of stick people scattered throughout the text. And if you go to the 6th chapter of Galatians, you will actually find one of those stick figure illustrations of a column of backpackers. But if you look ever so closely, you will see that the stick figure person behind each of the backpackers is ever so gently holding up the pack of the person in front of them.
I think this may best illustrate the point that Paul was trying to make. We might say that it is a creative tension—that both are really true. We are responsible for our own load, yet we are to bear each other’s burdens. Not dependence or independence, but interdependence. That is what it is to be the body of Christ, that in the Christian community, the body of Christ, the church, our lives are not lived in indifferent independence or smothering dependence, but in a wholesome interdependence, as one author stated it.
Sometimes we need to be the care receivers, sometimes we need to be the caregivers. Sometimes we need to minister, sometimes we need to be ministered to. Sometimes we need someone that will listen to us, sometimes we need to listen.
Sounds rather simple. But why is this sometimes so threatening to us? Why is it so hard sometimes to reach out and bear someone’s burden? Why is it so hard to admit that we have a burden to bear?
Bearing burdens means living out the Christian life and letting it get personal. God speaks to all, yet He also speaks to individuals, personally, one-on-one. Likewise bearing each other’s burdens is relational, person-to-person, making God’s love real in the life of someone else. It means putting our timetables aside, stooping to bend over to help someone, giving up on our own posturing for gain. And it also means allowing yourself to admit when you are the one carrying the burden. For God gave us the means to help each other through the tough times. He gave us each other—sharing, expressing the love through Jesus Christ that can comfort, strengthen, soothe, unburden, and liberate the chains that bind us, unlike anything else in the world can. For God created us not only to be in a loving relationship with Him, but also to be in loving relationships with each other.