Bear One Another's Burdens
Galatians 6:2 says, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." I see this one another acted out in small groups all the time. We love to help one another, and it's a beautiful picture of community when we do. Our small groups should jump to help when serious needs arise like illness, death, job loss, emotional loss, and financial setbacks.
But then Galatians 6:5 says, "each one should carry their own load." Why do these verses seem to contradict one another? The word translated "burdens" in the first verse is baros, which means a heavy, crushing burden or weight pressing one down. It's a weight that makes an excessive demand on one's resources, whether material or spiritual. The word for "load" in verse five is phortion, which is simply something to be borne without reference to weight. It was often used in reference to cargo carried by a ship, a pack carried by a soldier, or a child in the womb—basically, a person's everyday assignment from God. The key is knowing the difference. We don't want to enable by hovering, doing more than is needed. But we also don't want to leave someone to carry a burden alone. We help most when we encourage group members in their everyday burdens and jump in to help when there is a crushing burden.
Submit to One Another
Submission is not a popular concept. Many of us cringe at the thought. But Ephesians 5:21 commands us to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." The Greek word for submission is a military term meaning "to line up under" or "to draw up in order of battle."
If we are to be good soldiers of Christ, we must be willing to come under authority, even the authority of a peer. Submission is the opposite of self-assertion or an autocratic, independent spirit. It requires humility. Submission is not a punishment of some persons and the elevation of others, but rather, is designed to maintain order and dignity among all mankind. And this dignity is based on the fact that we are all created in the image of God. Therefore, we must submit to one another.
Our small groups are a great place to grapple with this concept. We must learn to submit to one another in humility, honoring the good ideas, contributions, and needs of every member. As leaders, we can submit to the needs and wishes of our members, modeling this behavior for them. This might include what to study, how fast to study, when to meet, and when to add new members.
Serve One Another
As we learn to submit, we will develop a willingness, even a desire, to serve one another. Galatians 5:13 says, "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." This was an incredibly countercultural command in Paul's day.
What does service look like? Consider Jesus, who took the form of a servant and washed the filthy feet of his disciples (John 13:1-17). We must graciously serve one another in equally humble ways. I'm always impressed by how small-group members serve one another. I've seen people go out of their way to serve another with childcare, moving, meals, home care, and financial needs. The ways we can serve one another are endless.
Think about your group. How well are group members modeling the one anothers? They're a great gauge for the health of your group. Developing the one anothers builds both unity and depth. And living out the one anothers serves as a great witness for the countercultural lives that God calls us to.
—Pat J. Sikora is an editorial advisor for SmallGroups.com and author of That the World May Know: A Study on Unity in the Body of Christ.