Bearing the Burdens of the Broken

A sermon idea based on Galatians 6:1-5

Paul has spent the entire book of Galatians building an ironclad legal case against legalism. He’s taken on the false theology of the Judaizers and has piled up the evidence that we are now free from the burden of a law we can’t keep and free from a destiny we couldn’t escape on our own.

We are now equals, and we are free all because of the abundant grace of God in Christ.

Therefore…

The final chapter of his epistle focuses less on what we have been freed from and more on what we are now free to do. And the first assertion Paul makes is:

In light of having been given SO much grace and having been given the Holy Spirit, we are now free to truly care for one another.

Galatians 6:1-5 NRSV

[1] My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. [2] Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. [3] For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. [4] All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. [5] For all must carry their own loads.

There are few ministries more desperately needed today than ministries of restoration. I don’t think Paul has in mind the idea of restoring someone to active attendance and participation in a particular local church. Rather, Paul is describing someone who is “detected in a transgression.” That is, they’re no longer whole. They’ve drifted into some kind of pattern that has disrupted their spiritual growth and alignment with the purposes of God.

One of my favorite quotes is,

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.

~ Charles Dickens

As we enter into a ministry of restoring to wholeness those who are broken and have wandered from their alignment with God, we’re doing one of the most meaningful things possible on earth. The gospel itself goes further and faster when the church is filled with people finding healing and wholeness in Christ.

But so many people have been let down by the church. Sometimes people walk away because of theology or because of their own internal pain and suffering. But often, people leave because of “church hurt.” That is, they leave because they experienced unkindness in moments of pain.

In this paragraph, Paul offers us a plan for caring for the souls of people. He urges us to seek the restoration of those who wander. We don’t necessarily suffer from a shortage of well-intentioned confrontation. What we often do lack, however, is humility.

I would outline Paul’s plan for becoming a caring community this way:

1. SEE the broken.

In healthy communities, we’re always watching out for each other so that we can see who is broken. There is a common risk in churches of all sizes that people will fall through the cracks and experience pain, loss, and suffering and it will go unnoticed.

The church cannot possibly promise perfection in this area. We simply can’t always be aware or in proximity to every hurt. But we can do our very best to notice.

2. SEND mature people.

Who is qualified to confront those overtaken by some sinful tendency?

  • Those who are filled with the Spirit.
  • Those willing to speak truth.
  • Those willing to go humbly, never in arrogance.

3. SHARE the pain of others.

We’re notoriously guilty of us-versus-them thinking. Therefore we approach those in pain as we, who are whole here to help you, who are broken, and we only increase the pain.

What Paul has in mind is for us to share in the pain of others.

It might seem as though Paul, in verse 5, is contradicting himself. He first told us to bear each others’ burdens and now he says that each person must bear their own burden individually.

It’s more likely that Paul is reminding us that each of us is individually responsible for our own choices and actions. We must take responsibility for the fruits of our own unhealthy, unholy choices. But the weight of the consequences of our transgressions is spread around when we’re willing to link arms.

I hold out hope for the church. Why? Because we all know what it means to be broken, and what it looks like to be helped, and there are no other organizations on earth that enjoy the source of divine power than the church enjoys.

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