Isaiah 37:1-29; Galatians 6:1-10; Psalms 65:5-13; Proverbs 17:1
NT: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Let each person examine his own work, and then he can take pride in himself alone, and not compare himself with someone else. For each person will have to carry his own load. Let the one who is taught the word share all his good things with the teacher. Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:1-10 CSB)
At the end of chapter 5, Paul wrote about walking in the Spirit, living by the Spirit and manifesting the fruit of the Spirit – with love being the primary manifestation. Here, Paul explained how that should look as it is practically lived out in life. One phrase that is repeated over and over in the New Testament is “one another.” Over and over again, we are told to love one another. The Apostle James wrote that we are to pray for one another. In other places, we are told to confess our sins to one another. Here Paul says that we are to carry one another’s burdens.
The primary thing that Paul was confronting in this letter to the Galatian churches was legalism. Love is a completely opposite spirit to legalism. One commentator put it this way, “The legalist is not interested in bearing burdens. Instead, he adds to the burdens of others.” It is interesting that people who are sticklers for the law tend to judge others by their actions, but then judge themselves by their intentions. They give themselves a pass, but are very heavy-handed with others. Jesus said this when confronting the legalism of the Pharisees, “If you had known what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent” (Matthew 12:7). The legalist is always looking for someone who is “overtaken in any wrongdoing” so that they can condemn the wrongdoer while lifting themselves up. That is the opposite spirit of love which is the fruit of being in Christ and filled with His Holy Spirit.
The love that is manifested in the spirit-filled believer is Agape. That love could be described as a love that does whatever it takes for as long as it takes. As that kind of love is manifested in our lives, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are manifested as well – allowing us to love others selflessly and bear long with them with patience, kindness, gentleness, and faithfulness. Instead of looking for opportunities to condemn someone’s behavior in order to make ourselves look good, we look for opportunities to humble ourselves in order to help others with their burdens. Paul made a differentiation between burdens and loads. He said that we are to bear each other’s burdens but carry our own loads. A burden in this context is a very heavy weight that is nearly impossible to carry on your own. On the other hand, loads are light-weight responsibilities that we are all to carry. In a body that is motivated by love through the fullness of the Holy Spirit, each person in the body does what is their’s to do, while helping others carry burdens that are too great to carry on their own. All of that is done without harmful condemnation and comparison.
Instead of condemning someone who has inadvertently fallen into wrongdoing, Paul said that we are to restore such a person with gentleness. The word “restore” has to do with mending something that is broken – as in setting a broken bone. When I broke my ankle earlier this year, it had to be reset – and then there was a lengthy time of healing when my ankle wasn’t able to “carry its load.” The rest of my body didn’t gang up on my ankle, condemn it, and refuse to help. No – the rest of my body helped my ankle heal gently by compensating and bearing its burden. That is the way we are to be with one another – and we are able to do that as the fruit of the Spirit is manifested through us. So, as Paul wrote, “as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all.”
Prayer: Lord, You don’t call me to be harshly critical of others, using someone else’s mistakes as an opportunity to boast about my own self-righteousness. Instead, You warn me in Your word to not allow myself to be deceived about my own righteousness, but to consider others before myself and be concerned for their good. I know that the only way that I can fully walk that out is to do so in the Spirit. Help me to not sow to my flesh, but to instead sow to the Spirit working within me to walk in all righteousness. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.