Summary: When we effectively handle our burdens as well as the burden of others, we demonstrate the same love Christ demonstrated on the cross for all of us.
So here we are, the final week of our walk through the book of Galatians that we’ve entitled, In need of GPS.” Paul has been shouting at the Galatians because they are lost. They made a wrong turn and are headed down a dead-end street. A street that leads only to hopelessness and despair. Paul has presented his argument using many styles of communication and now ends with ways to practically bring the community of faith back into line with the missionary message of hope: a mission which still witnesses to Christ’s presence today. But what does that look like for the church and for us personally.
Paul’s inspired writing today is unique in two ways: First for what it does not say, and second for what it does say. First, we must keep in mind that Paul knows these people intimately. These are his peeps, possie and his family and he fears for their salvation. However, he does not say, “You didn’t listen to me so therefore forget it. You are dead to me.” He doesn’t even say, like he did to the Corinthians; throw the immoral brother out of the circle of fellowship. He was not calling for Church discipline of any one individual because they all had wandered off the path to eternity. He’s trying to get the group to realize how to get back on track without blackballing or alienating any followers or leaders. He wants the church to act like the Christ by providing relief to the burdened.
I have had a myriad of discussions this week over the burden of carrying of THE message of hope in the church, in the community and in the world. It has become increasingly burdensome to me to see our people dealing with this very real downturn in our economy with its loss of jobs, the anxiety about meeting current needs and fear of the future. It is also an increasingly burdensome to know just a few blocks away there is a college with thousands of students who have never experienced Christ’s love or the awesome peace that comes from a relationship with the creator. Finally, I am burden because I see Christians both conservative and liberal deride each other for their understanding of how to demonstrate/witness the message of Jesus while both are squandering precious resources. I pray to Jesus to act but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
How about you? What burdens have you been carrying? Are they mental, physical, and/or spiritual? Are they a collection of all three?
In this final set of directions to the Galatians, Paul tells the spiritually mature Galatians take care of those who had that have lost their way by SLOWLY integrating them back into the church. He does so by reiterating that we, as Christ followers, are responsible to carry the burdens of those Christians who have fallen. It then seems that Paul contradicts himself a few sentences later when he says we should all burden or carry our own load. So which is it? Carry your own load or carry someone else’s? Does Paul advocate personal responsibility or corporate responsibility? Well the answer is yes. Huh? It’s really a situation of both.
There is a story from a few years ago of a Christian man waiting at a station for his bus. As he waits thinking about his busy day ahead, a little boy is next to him on the bench playing with a puzzle. The bus pulls up to the corner and in the rush to board, people shake the bench, the puzzle falls to the ground shattering into a pile of pieces. People trample them in they hurry. The man sees the boy and stops to help. The bus leaves and the man and boy gather every last piece. When its all back in the box, the boy looks to the man and says, "are you Jesus?"
Just like that mature man at the bus station, Paul is telling the mature Christians of Galatia: “your job, calling or responsibility is to be more like Jesus Christ.” Christ followers are to care for the good of all and especially for those in the faith, who claim Christ as Lord and Savior, but have not fully learned how to live Christ’s message and who have fallen prey to an understanding of God which is not Biblically accurate. Paul goes on to say that in the caring for these individuals, we are to understand we are not responsible for the outcome. We are only instruments of God’s plan. In some ways, we are the active parts of what John Wesley defined as God’s prevenient and sanctifying grace. Prevenient grace is the grace that surrounds every individual even before they fully commit to the Lord. It the understanding that while you may not fully get God, He is close by offering His love. Now, Sanctifying grace is the grace that comes after accepting Christ into your heart and begins to experience the Holy Spirit’s perfecting of your life through your thoughts and actions. As such, Paul’s call on the mature/experienced believers is to serve as agents of God’s love.