“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ … For each one shall bear his own load.” —Galatians 6:2, 5
At first glance, it may appear that those two verses are contradictory. How can we bear someone else’s burdens if we are supposed to carry our own load? The word “burden” in v. 2 means “excess burdens”; something beyond the normal capacity to carry. In v. 5, “load” is what a person is expected to carry. We are expected to carry our own responsibilities — our families, our role in the church, our personal holiness. They are non-transferrable. There’s a delicate balance that must be exercised.
Paul makes it clear in v. 2 that there are some burdens that are to be shared and need to be shared. One of the most beneficial aspects of being a team is that we can look out for one another. When one member falls, other members are there to pick them up — to encourage, help, admonish and even rebuke. If you have burdens that are weighing you down, please share them. Be willing to reach out for help (James 5:13-16). Additionally, those who are spiritual must be willing to help bear that burden (Gal. 6:1). That process begins by getting to know one another; being willing enough to know when one is overtaken in a fault and then to care. We can’t help people if all we know is their first name. The commandment in Heb. 10:24-25 helps resolve this dilemma. How can we encourage one another? By being together.
The key to Gal. 6:2 is found in verse 1. Life is full of burdens. Work, family, physical sickness, finances, and even sin. So when someone is “overtaken in a trespass” — taken by surprise — it is the responsibility of those who are “spiritual” to create a pathway and an atmosphere of restoration. The goal is to restore. It’s the idea that someone who is strong using their strength to support the person in their weakness. That action is done in a “spirit of gentleness.” We go to them with our emotions and words under control, remembering that we, too, can be tempted to commit that same sin, or be tempted to treat them in a hateful, spiteful manner.
In the end, the church can only do so much. The individual is the one who must bear their own load, and if they’ve been overtaken by sin, they must repent (Matt. 4:17). But the church can be a place of encouragement and love, creating a path that leads to the Lord, who is kind, loving, gracious and forgiving.