- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Robert W. Wagner at Grace Brethren Church of Calvert County in Owings, Md.

One of the paramount ways that God reaches us with His grace is through people. God calls us to be grace givers, and Galatians 6:2-5 shows us that one way is "to bear anothers burdens."
Each day you are either a blessing to others or a royal pain to them. You have that ability, and you make the choice. Galatians teaches us how to be a blessing. Earlier, in Verse 1, we saw that part of being a spiritual person is to come alongside others who have been involved in sin. That may involve confrontation, which includes self-confrontation, so we can restore each other in a spirit of humility.
Now, Paul is speaking of another proper attitude. He says, "Carry each others burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Being there for one another. Life is filled with things that can make us depressed, and we all need others to come alongside us to build us up. Is there anyone this week who was hanging on by threads? Anyone who heard bad news, or was dealt a crushing blow? TLC is not a modern concept. Tender loving care can be found here with the apostle Paul, who says it "fulfills the law of Christ."
We recall the rich man who came and asked the Lord what was the best commandment. The greatest was to "love the Lord your God" with your whole being, and then to "love your neighbor as yourself." Out of our spiritual relationship with God comes our love for others. Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you."
A flag goes up as we move on to Verse 3. "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself." We read on that a person must "test his own actions" and avoid comparing himself with others. These obstacles keep us from fulfilling the "law of Christ."
These are areas of conceit. We might feel more important than others and say, "I dont belong there" or, "that person got himself in that fix." But remember that saying: "But for the grace of God, there go I." Our importance is measured by our love. What about comparisons? We do that in two ways. "Im doing better than they." Or you can say, "Im unable to do anything." One comparison is positive, the other negative, but they both are full of self.
The Gospel speaks of our neighbor, and you may ask, "Whose burden am I to carry?" How far are we to go with all of this? When the Lord was asked how many times are we to forgive, He said, "70 times seven." Who is my neighbor? We dont want to reduce Christianity to a legal system. Love is not limited to "these four people," for example. We are called to bear one anothers burdens.
Some will say, "That is the pastors job." We dont all have the same gifts in the body of Christ, but we are given our gifts to serve each other. And one thing we can all do is give Gods love and help bear burdens. Sooner or later, were all going to need Gods help. I ask this of you. If you are the recipient of someones care, whether it be a helping hand, a listening ear or a word of wisdom, please accept that. Say, "Thank you."
Verse 5 finally reminds us that we all have our own burdens that naturally come with each and every life. I should not expect you to do for me what I am responsible for. We must be there for those who face a crushing burden, but in life we have our own, just as a soldier must carry his own pack.
Mothers take care of their children, but sometimes a mother may get sick. So a friend says, "You rest and Ill take the kids." And mothers do this for each other. But could they ever expect that someone should take their children all the time? In all of this, Galatians tells us to reflect on our spiritual attitude. We dont want to become part of the burden. We do this not out of Christian duty, but out of love.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Robert C. Ciliniski at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas, Va.

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