DevotionalRace & Culture

Carrying Each Others Burdens

Below is the audio and the notes from our recent all church devotional we had where Garth and Ralph shared on how we can carry each others burdens from a biblical perspective and laying out out plan for midweek’s through the month of August.

Here is the audio from that lesson:

You can Check out all of our devotionals from our new series on Culture & Race here

You can check out all of Devotionals here


Carrying Each Other’s Burdens

By: Garth Oliver

Galatians 6:1-5  

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.

Burden {BAR’-os} abundance of weight; the notion of going down

Load {for-TEE’-on} invoice as part of a freight, cargo, a task or service, same word Matthew 11:30 when Jesus says burden is light

Everyone has a task a certain amount of cargo “baggage” they transport through life but some people are overwhelmed with the abundance of weight they have to bear up and we are commanded to run to each other’s rescue when we see anyone buckling under their abundance of weight.

I wanted to share for a few minutes some examples from the life of Christ that I believe addresses legitimate questions and concerns I have heard shared by a variety of faithful brothers and sisters about how we should be responding to cultural diversity, racial inequities and unity in the fellowship

Here are 4 examples taken specifically from the life and teachings of Christ on he commands or demonstrated handling racial and cultural differences and prioritize unity.  The connecting theme appears to be his intentionality. He said and did things with a precise deliberateness, purposefulness, premeditation.

1. AFFIRMATIONS: HE EXPECTS INTENTIONALITY WITH OUR WORDS

Matthew 5:21-22. 21 

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

For those who pledge allegiance to Christ he places guardrails on our speech.  “Freedom of speech” is a wonderful American notion but Christ recognize that the power of our words can seriously wound and even kill a relationship.  “Raca” is a term of utter contempt denoting worthlessness. God values each of us and takes serious any attempt to devalue one another.  Though I may highly value my opinion, God does not value it more than anybody else’s faith.


Matthew 18:6,7.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!


This passage teaches me that the burdens are coming from the world and Jesus expected the world to cause us to stumble as we are all carrying our cargo our luggage but we need to make sure we are not tripping each other causing anyone to fall.  In every interaction, every text, tweet, post, T-shirt, hat, bummer sticker, joke, casual or careless flippancy take care not to cause any Christian to stumble or fall away destroying each other’s faith.  This standard applies to all Christians – to those who the world abuses and those it seduces.  Later in in the same chapter it says resolve conflict just between the 2 of you something that online group social media does not make possible.  These feuds played out on online forums are probably unbiblical.

Ephesian 4:29

 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 

2. ADVOCACY WAS HIS LIFE MISSION


Luke 4:18-19 16 

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]

To those who may say this is not my fight and does not involve me, you may be right if this fight was just about black and white.  This fight however is about deliberately confronting injustice, oppression, poverty, health disparity, wholesale imprisonment and it is a fight that Jesus deliberately took on with attitude “Here I am send me,” Isaiah 61.  If Jesus landed here today he would be like “take me to your poor, your sick and dying, your imprisoned population, your oppressed” who would he find there and would they recognize us?  The fight for justice has always been voluntary and if you take the option of not fighting, recognize that is a luxury some of our brothers and sisters do not have.  The fight is brought to them daily as they go to work, walk in their neighborhood, or drive down public streets or shop for anything, lay their beds or fall asleep in the dorm…. The cumulative effect is overwhelmingly burdensome the very thing we are commanded to carry for each other.

3. APPROACHABILITY: OPEN-HEARTEDNESS

Matthew 8:5-10

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.


There was no separate police force to maintain order in the Roman Empire, the soldiers were the law enforcers and the instrument of the oppression of the Jews.  In fact, a Centurion commanded 100 soldiers so he was dealing with the chief of police here and instead of any bitterness or disrespect, chose to serve while praising him.  I imagined some Jewish Rabbi’s or zealots were like, “Don’t you know who that is? We don’t befriend those people, they are the enemy.”

4. ASSOCIATIONS & ALLIANCES: INTENTIONAL IN HIS RELATIONSHIPS

The Samaritans were considered a half-breed and the Jews simply did not associate with them.  It started more than14 generations earlier when the Babylonians had conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel they had fallen away from God’s commands and started mixing the Levitical laws with foreign cultures and religions and then the Babylonians exiled the majority of the population leaving a small remnant.  They then repopulated the area with other non-Hebraic tribes from elsewhere in the Babylonian empire.  Seventy years later when the faithful Jews repatriated Jerusalem, the culture and ethnicity of the Samaritan people was unrecognizable to the Jews.  When Jesus initially sent out the 12 Apostles he commanded them not to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritan towns.  Later, though when he sent out the 72 they were directed to go into the Samaritan towns.  It was its own kingdom and stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan and divided the territory up North in Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus was born and Jerusalem, Judea in the South where he was killed.  When Jesus wanted to escape the Pharisees he take advantage of the fact that they would avoid Samaritan Region and he would make a bee line north back to his hometown.

John 4:3-9 

So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”


Jesus was not color-blind, he knew of the intense ethnic, religious and cultural division that existed between his people and the Samaritans although he ignored it at first steering the conversation towards spiritual matters.  However, these divisions are real for those he is reaching out to in fact she is the one who kept bringing up their divide, and he eventually directly acknowledges it only to demolition the separation.  Pretending there is no deep seated long standing cultural and ethnic divide does not vaporize it.

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

There are those who are convinced that even mentioning racial difference is a sabotage to any relationship, a nonstarter, something Jesus would never do.  Being color-blind in a color coded society is an acquired skill but is not helpful in effecting change.  In order to truly destroy the divide, we must acknowledge and engage it.  If I ignore what is right in front of people’s consciousness I reinforce the barrier, (e.g. cancer discussion).  Though it was not on Jesus’s agenda and the Samaritan woman raised the issue on multiple occasion, he eventually dealt with it head on and was successfully smashed it head on. And how do I know Jesus was successful? 

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

Jesus did not just travel through their territory, he drank from them, ate their food, met their kids, slept in their house and as we see in the next and final scripture honored and celebrated their hospitality – it does not get any more intimate than that.  This is our standard our sworn commitment.

Luke 10 25-37

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


You and all the kingdom kids are familiar with this story and the moral is very clear, what is worth mentioning in this context is who Jesus is praising, the ostracized down-trodden Samaritans but most importantly, the original question he is answering in verse 25.  This whole story was not answering how to be neighborly but how to attain eternal life, how to get to heaven.  We always knew it was some interplay of our relationship with God and our relationship with people, but did we appreciate how involved, how intentional, how committed to the “other?”  If you hear a voice saying things will never change, that is not from God, it is either Satan or your own fears.  To this day we still see the chain reaction of these intentional acts of befriending the Good Samaritan and the Roman centurion which is why every State in the US has a “Good Samaritan” Hospital; and the devout god-fearing Roman centurion in Acts 10 was who God chose to open his Kingdom to us Gentiles.

To go and do likewise for us is to, among other things:

  1. Vow to never be a stumbling block in any way, to any of our siblings in the faith, near or far, black, white, brown yellow, red or polka.  Christianity is challenging enough as Jesus himself calls it an “easy yoke and a light burden.”
  2. Study out the perfect life of Christ and commit to God to advocating for what Christ did – intentionally seek out the marginalized serving the poor, the imprisoned, sick or disabled and the oppressed inside and outside the fellowship.
  3. Destroying your comfort zone and form alliances so you can tackle the barriers set up by the world for generations.  If you have any privilege in society team up with your brother to lighten the overwhelming burden.  Associate and celebrate those who are different and challenge those who are like you.  There needs to be more intra-racial accountability like Galatian 2:14 Paul, a Jew confronting Peter, a Jew about his racial double standards.
  4. Affirm your compassion – it literally means to “suffer with” and it is how God told Moses to describe him to the Israelites and why Jesus wept at Lazarus’ grave even though he knew he was about to resurrect him.  He took the time to mourn with the family.

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