Galatians 6 is a beautiful picture of biblical community, even when it’s difficult. To refresh your memory, the church in the Galatian region was splintered. Some time after Paul had brought the gospel to the region, false teachers had followed in his footsteps, proclaiming an “almost-but-not-quite” version of the gospel message. The message of these false teachers, which history knows as the Judaizers, was a works + Jesus = salvation kind of thing, a mutated version of the purity of grace and faith.
And some, if not many, of the Galatian converts had abandoned the true gospel in favor of this false teaching. There was, no doubt, a significant rift in the church, and not the kind that happens when one group doesn’t like the color of the carpet or those new-fangled guitars in the worship room. This division had teeth. And Paul knew that part of correcting the theology of the church meant reconnecting these errant brothers and sisters with the community of faith. So when he comes to chapter 6, after a truly angry rebuke through the rest of the book, he means to put the pieces back together. So he writes:
Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” —Galatians 6:1-2
There are so many characteristics in these two short verses that paint the picture of true biblical community. There is forgiveness and gentleness; there is a genuine concern and responsibility for one another’s spiritual growth; there is the core of pushing one another toward godliness through loving accountability; there is an intentional effort toward honesty with the intent of restoration. But there is also a warning beneath the surface. We see here one of the main characteristics that would keep the Galatians, and us, from truly experiencing life in the community of faith like we are meant to:
There are two kinds of pride that will absolutely crush biblical community:
1. I’m too good for this.
In order for the healing in this community to take place, Paul says that they must be willing to bear one another’s burdens. The etymology of the word “burden” in verse 2 implies a heavy weight or stone that someone has to carry for a long time. It refers to something so ridiculously large and cumbersome that it is absurd to think that someone could carry it alone. In Paul’s mind, the church should be a company of burden-bearers, shouldering the difficult weight of sin, restoration, pain, and grief together. But there is a kind of pride that prevents this from happening.
The faithful Galatians, the ones who stayed true to the gospel message, might very well have looked at their fallen brothers and sisters down the bridges of their noses. They might have smirked as they slunk back into their fellowship, greeting them with an “I told you so” kind of attitude. Similarly, there are those people among us who, frankly, we think are beneath us. We think that we have attained some kind of spiritual level or financial level or social level that makes us too good to actually get underneath their boulder with them. If we think of ourselves as being too good to help lift the burden of another,we will never, ever, ever truly be in biblical community with others.
But there is a second type of pride that is equally as dangerous, though much more sanitized:
2. I’m too good for this.
That’s not a typo. See, there is the pride that says I’m too good to help someone else lift, but then there’s also the pride that says I’m too good to let someone else help me. This is the kind of pride that keeps us closed off, secretive, and silent. It’s the kind of pride bolstered by unspoken prayer requests and answers of “fine” when inquiries are made. The truly sneaky part of this kind of pride is that it’s so easy to pass off as spirituality. Sure enough, we are willing to help everyone else carry their burdens, but no one will ever get close enough to us to even know what we are carrying, much less lift a finger to help.
Whether we refuse to carry another’s burdens or whether we refuse to have ours borne, the root is the same: I’m too good for this.
So long as we do not have a truly accurate picture of ourselves, as Paul says we must, then biblical community will be crushed under the weight of individual burdens.
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua (10), Andi (7), and Christian (5). He serves as Director of Groups Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. Find him on Twitter: @_MichaelKelley.