Radical "One Anothering"

    November 24, 2020 | Counseling | Community by Mike Greene

    The Bible contains some 20 to 30 "one another" commands, depending on how you count them. Some are similar and overlap. These commands form the bedrock of our discipleship ministries as they put gospel transformation into simple and practical terms. "One anothering" describes how we are to live everyday life as Christians. The most important "one another" command, love one another, links them all together. If you are in Christ, the command to love one another is not optional, and there are no conditions. Today, we will look at an often overlooked or misunderstood command: the command to bear one another's burdens.

    "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load." (Gal. 6:1-5)

    The Apostle Paul seems to be expounding on the teaching of Jesus from Matthew 7:1-5. While believers are to be discerning, Jesus made the point that it is not our job to punish others for their sins. But Jesus did not stop with "do not judge." He carried it a step further, saying that we should first deal with our own sin and then help others with their struggles. Jesus said, in Matthew 7, "…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Too many people miss that last part. Paul gives us a practical example of what Jesus taught.

    It is important to note that Paul is speaking to believers. Lost people will act like lost people. He refers to "you who are spiritual." We are sometimes too casual about what it means to be spiritual, but Paul certainly is not. He spends most of Galatians 5 explaining what it means to walk in the Spirit. [STUDY TIP: Always read some before and after the text you are studying to get the context and let Scripture define the terms.] We cannot consistently love one another unless the Spirit leads us. Without the Holy Spirit, our motives in bearing one another's burdens are questionable.

    So, how do you react when someone close to you sins? How about when they sin against you? Do you get angry? Do you reject them? Do you try to punish them? Before you answer that, consider that reactions like anger, not speaking, ignoring, and withholding affection are forms of punishment. Anger, by definition, is a negative moral judgment. Consider what might happen if you took a different approach. Instead of judging and punishing others when they sin, suppose that you helped them, restoring them to right relationships with Christ and others. Suppose that you loved them and helped them instead of kicking them while they're down. That's radical one anothering! This will revolutionize friendships! This will revolutionize marriages! This will revolutionize families! This will revolutionize the church! The lost people around us will see what gospel transformation looks like!

    Paul does not just bark a command. He explains how and why we should do it, and he sets some boundaries. This works when we are led by the Spirit. Being led by the Spirit implies being surrendered to God. Many people live without power in their lives because they have not fully surrendered their lives to the Lord. Restoration is to be done with gentleness, just as a doctor might gently reset a broken bone so it will heal properly. Paul also warns that we should be careful not to be tempted ourselves, recognizing that we are just as prone to sin as the person we are helping.

    Paul uses the Greek word for "burden" in verse 2 that carries the idea of "overburden," a load that is too heavy to bear. The command to love one another requires that we help others when their burden is too much for them. To carry the load that others should carry for themselves (verse 5) may not be the most loving thing to do.

    So, why must we bear one another's burdens? Why must we gently restore the brother or sister who has sinned? Paul clearly states that it fulfills the law of Christ, which is to love one another. Choosing to love, choosing to forgive, and choosing to bear one another's burdens honor our Savior because that's what He did for us. Obeying the one another commands is loving Jesus more than self.

    Please understand that this does not mean that we have to put up with patterns of unrepentant sin such as abuse, adultery, or addictive behaviors. These are severe and sometimes dangerous issues that must be addressed. If you are trapped in enslaving sin, or you are a victim of it, please reach out to the Biblical Counseling Ministry or a pastor for help.

    "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)