A Friend Indeed

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

I have burdens. You have burdens. All God’s children have burdens. It’s a fact of life on this rock. Because Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and sin, burdens and struggles have been man’s constant companion. No one gets through life unscathed. And no one gets through life alone. I believe that one of the greatest gifts God has given to us, following the gift of salvation, is that of family and friends. Surely He sent me to help you and you to help me. If friends were a tradable commodity, the wealthiest people on earth would be the ones with the deepest friendships.

Paul was a man rich in friends, and he understood the power and privilege of those sweet relationships. He also knew and taught that with privilege comes responsibility. The responsibility of friendship is caring for and about one another. He wrote our key Scripture to encourage the Galatians in the responsibility of “carrying each other’s burdens.” The word “burdens” actually holds a dual meaning in Paul’s letter. The burdens of the Galatians were certainly the sufferings of life, the trials and struggles and heartaches that still weigh us down today. But he was also referring to the “burden” of temptation, a burden that we so often try to bear all alone. A burden under which we will always fall without the help and support of others. The rise of “accountability groups” is a tremendous and powerful tool in the battles we all face with temptation. These groups are putting into practical use the words of Proverbs 27: 17 – “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

It brings to mind the story in Exodus 17 of the Israelites’ first battle after leaving Egypt. The Amalekites attacked the weary wanderers and Joshua was appointed as captain of the Israelite army. The battle was fierce and the enemy powerful. As Moses watched from a nearby hill, he held his staff high above his head as a visual symbol to the Israelites of God’s power on their behalf. As long as the staff was lifted high, the Israelite army had the upper hand. But Moses’ arms grew tired, and when he lowered them to rest, the Amalekites began to overpower the Israelites. Joshua and the army carried the burden of the battle, but they depended on Moses, who bore the burden of encouragement. Seeing their army struggle as Moses weakened, two of the priests, Aaron and Hur, brought a stone for Moses to sit on and they stood on either side of him and supported his arms as he held the staff high-until the Israelites won the victory over their enemy. This is the perfect picture of “carrying each other’s burdens.” Joshua could not fight the battle alone, he needed Moses’ encouragement. Moses could not carry the weight of encouraging Joshua alone, he needed the support of Aaron and Hur. The battle was won because no one fought it alone. In both times of suffering and times of temptation, the power of a burden-carrying friend is sometimes the difference between survival and defeat.

Paul’s mandate has a greater purpose than just mutual support and encouragement. It is a also a call to obedience. The second part of this verse says that by carrying each other’s burdens, “you will fulfill the law of Christ.” What is “the law of Christ”? Simply this: “Love one another. (John 13:34; 15:12) It is the only time that Jesus prefaced His words by saying “My command is this…” (John 15:12) It wasn’t just a nice thought or a wise teaching-it was His command, an order that carried all the authority of the Son of God. Jesus also said “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) You and I will probably never be called upon to die to save the life of our friends, but are we willing to “lay down” our time and our comfort to help carry the burdens of another? Will you give up a few hours to care for your friend’s newborn baby so she can get some much needed rest? Will I give up my favorite team’s football game to sit in the ER with my friend after an accident? My husband showed great love when he missed an Alabama-Auburn football game to be an usher in our nieces’ wedding. If you know any rabid Alabama fans, you will understand that this was a true sacrifice on his part. Sometimes showing our love can be somewhat costly-providing a place to stay, giving financial support, standing by them through the repercussions of sin; but often the simplest things can help ease another’s burdens, a plate of cookies, a note, or an hour over coffee. I will always appreciate my Bible Study group who prepared and delivered a meal for us on the day we moved, the friend who tutored my son through Social Studies, and the kindness of a sweet sister in Christ who stayed close by and held me up through a season of deep depression.

Paul expressed the same call to many of the churches he ministered to. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, he said “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” The beauty of this passage is in the combination of the words, “encourage” and “build up.” To encourage someone means “to be beside” and to build up means “to develop another’s life through acts and words of love and encouragement.” This world is filled with hurting people. Your community is filled with struggling people. Within your church, school, workplace, family, maybe even in your own home, there are people who need to you to come alongside them and pour loving words and actions into their life. I can’t think of a better way to obey the command of Jesus Christ to “Love one another.” The love and encouragement you show someone today may be the pivot point that turns their life in a new direction.

Loving Father, I am truly a rich person because of the wonderful friends you have given to me. Please give me eyes to see the one who needs me to help carry their burden and build them up. Amen