BEARING ON ANOTHER'S BURDENS
“Bear ye one another’s Burdens,
and so fulfil the Word of Christ” (Gal. 6:2)
Our opening citation illustrates the importance of assisting each other as we walk along our wilderness journey towards the land of God’s promise. We are blessed in that our journey is not a solitary one: in this dispensation we are grateful for the help and support provided by those of like precious faith—and indeed, we try to reciprocate that same support to others.
At the time of the apostles, Judaisers advocated adherence to the rite of circumcision, and the traditions of men that had become attached to the observance of Mosaic Law. In doing this, they in effect imposed a burden upon the believers—a burden that even the Fathers could not bear: “to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our Fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). Our Lord Jesus Christ likewise spoke of this class, in speaking of the Pharisees:
“… they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Mat. 23:4).
This is something we must guard against. In our zeal to uphold the principles of the Truth, we can sometimes lose sight of the weakness of the flesh, and the failings common to us all. It is all to easy to scorn those of our brethren who may be failing in a particular aspect as they struggle to overcome sin—but that is not the Way of Christ. Christ taught the need to help each other—to bear each other’s burdens, that we might inherit glory together in the kingdom to come.
There is a particular burden, however that we all have to bear. Whilst our opening citation can apply at a general level, as we shall see, they have reference to a specific burden that Christ’s brethren must carry. Jesus himself taught:
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mrk 10:21)
Very often these words are applied to the general difficulties of life, or a particular difficulty that an individual might be contending with. “we all have our cross to bear” is a familiar saying in religious circles. However, a little reflection will show that Christ is very specific in his words. The “cross” was a burden that Christ himself had to bear. It was the method of his execution, an emblem of his suffering. To “follow” Christ is to identify oneself with his burden. It is to “crucify the flesh” (Gal. 5:24), or as the Apostle said: “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31).
SIMON OF CYRENE
Simon provides an example of one who became identified with Christ, by literally bearing the cross of Christ:
“as the led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Syrenian, coming out of the country, and him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus” (Luke 23:26)
How wonderful it was, that Messiah did not have to bear his burden alone! Simon was a follower of Christ—literally, as he walked behind him, bearing the burden. And in this, we have an example of how to respond to the needs of our brethren and sisters. “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Mat. 5:20) is the principle. If a man bare the burden for Christ, even so we ought to bear each other’s burdens.
The comparison goes further than this: Simon had the cross laid upon him “that he might bear it after Jesus”. The idea here, is not that Christ put the burden down, and another carried it after he did. Christ never failed under any burden, being the Son of the Most High God, and the Word Made Flesh. Rather, what happened was that Christ carried one end, and Simon the other, supporting it behind, or after him. This passage helps us to understand another verse in Galatians which some find difficult:
“every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal. 6:5)
The question raised, is: “How is that if we all bear our own burdens, that others can also bear those same burdens for us?” The answer is found in the example of Christ. Just as Simon helped carry the cross, even so it is for each of us to individually support our brothers and sisters by helping them to bear their burdensome circumstances.
When compared with the wonderful weight of glory that is laid up for us, the circumstances of this life—however trying they may be—will at the last be considered as a “light” affliction (2 Cor. 4:17). See these words of Christ himself:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mat. 11:28-30)
Whether our burden appears light or grievous depends on what is our point of reference. Compared with the things of this life, they might appear heavy, and hard to bear. However, faced with the glories of the life to come, they will be just a fading memory. We must therefore always have that vision before our minds, to enable us to endure and overcome the difficulties that life brings—and to enable us to help others to overcome also.