31 August 2012

Galatians 6:1-10

"Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ." (v. 2)


As a child I remember a group of us, 20 or more, standing together in a close circle, all facing to our left. When we were as tight together as possible, we slowly had to sit down so that each person was sitting on another person's knees. Sometimes it worked and sometimes we ended up collapsing in a heap.

This always comes to mind when I read today's passage, about "bearing one another's burdens" (v. 2). Paul is giving advice about how to live in community and fellowship with one another: this is particular pertinent as earlier in the letter he has stressed that all are one in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29).

But Paul seems to contradict himself a few sentences later when he writes in verse 5, "For all must carry their own loads". However this is what living in community is all about - being caring and prepared to offer help when needed, whilst recognising that we all need to take responsibility for our own actions, and not abuse other people's good will.

In an interview with the Guardian in July 2011, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spoke his mid-20s: "I was an angst-ridden young man, with a lot of worries about whether I was doing enough suffering and whether I was compassionate enough. But the late, great Mother Mary Clare said to me, 'You don't have to suffer for the sins of the world, darling. It's been done.'"

In our zeal to follow Christ, there is a danger that we can try to bear everyone's burdens: this can only cause exhaustion and burnout. We have a responsibility to ourselves as well as to others. It is about living in community with one another, and everyone in the community drawing strength from that.

To Ponder

  • What burdens do you help bear for others? And what burdens of your own do you share with others?
  • How can/do you care for yourself whilst bearing others burdens?
  • "If anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness" (v. 1). How do you feel about giving and receiving criticism?

Bible notes author

Ken Kingston

Ken Kingston preaches in the High Wycombe Circuit. He has worked for the Connexional Team since 1992 in a variety of roles and has been involved in 'Called by Name' and 'Time to Talk of God' amongst others.