Summary: The importance in the body of Christ of bearing each others burdens.
The word for ’burden’ used in this passage is ’baros’. This does not mean a niggling irritation or annoyance that we exaggerate to become burdensome (like arthiritis in one finger) but it does mean ’to be overtaken in a trespass’ and is an oldfashioned word meaning ’to misstep , trip down stairs’.
In 1994 I was jogging and fell down the stairs of an underpass leading to East Coast Park (in Singapore). I tripped at the top and fell headfirst down the stairs, cracking my forehead on the side of one of the concrete steps as I came down. I was knocked unconsious and fell to the bottom.
When I regained conciousness there were three types of people who came to me:
(i) Those who saw all the blood and ran by saying ’eeeee!’
(ii) A newspaper reporter came to see if someone had pushed me etc..
(iii) A man who genuinely had compassion, helped to bandage me up and call ambulance.
In the same way, when we fall or trip up in our Christian lives there will be those who want to run past and not get involved and those who will report all kinds of gossip concerning our fall. In Scripture we are urged to be the third type, the one who bears the other’s burden!
RESTORING THOSE WHO ARE BURDENED
In this passage it says we are to ’restore’ the one who has tripped. This word in the greek (katartizein) can mean: to set a broken bone, to remove a tumour or to repair and piece together what is broken. All three of these describe well the process of restoring one who has been overtaken by a trespass and fallen.
Then the person will be able to ’bear his own load’ - the word for ’load’ is not the same as the previous word for ’burden’. It is ’phortion’ which is not about bearing an oppressive load but carrying something that is a joy to bear - the work of God for our lives!
See Matthew 11:30 - ’He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother’!
Illustration: A true story is told of a school boy seeing another ’nerdy’ looking boy in Spectacles carrying a huge pile of books and being bullied. The boy is pushed over and all his books go flying. So the boy who sees this goes to help the other boy to pick up all the books, carrying them for him, and invites him to a game of football. He also asks why he is carrying so many books. The reply is that he has a lot of work.
Well, they become best of friends and the ’nerdy’ boy turns into a handsome young man who does well at school and is asked to give a graduation speech. In the speech he shocks everyone, especially his friend, by saying that the day he was being bullied he actually had cleared out his locker of all books and was going home to commit suicide! Only his friend came to help him and not only carry his books but also his burden! Because of that kind act of friendship he did not take his life!
THE ARMOUR BEARER
In Scripture there is an apt illustration of what it means to bear one another’s burdens. It is the role of an Armour Bearer in the Old Testament.
According to history the armour bearer:
(i) Was a trustworthy and brave SERVANT.
(ii)SHARED in carrying additional weapons.
(iii)Would STRIKE the enemy dead that had been wounded by the commander’s arrow or javelin.
The burden bearer is a servant and helps the other get free from negative burdens by sharing in that burden whether through prayer or in a more tangible way. He will share also in coming against the attacks of the enemy against the vulnerable one who is burdened.
There is a story of a missionary in Africa which he told to his home church congregation. He told them about how he had to cycle through a Jungle every week to pick up medical supplies from a town on the other side. On one such journey he arrived safely at the town and saw two men brawling. One man was lefy lying in a pool of blood on the floor. The missionary helped bandage up his wounds and gave the man some money then he went back through the jungle on his Bike with the supplies, camping in the jungle overnight.
The next week he went back to get more supplies and in the town met the man whose life he had saved. Shaking, the man told the missionary what had happened the previous week. Seeing the missionary had money and medical supplies the man who he had helped went and told five friends and they followed the missionary into the jungle intending to kill him and take the money and supplies.