Kevan Chandler was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that limits his mobility and leaves him bound to a wheelchair. But Kevan wasn’t content to see life at “belt-buckle level,” as he calls it. So, a few years ago, he left his wheelchair at the Atlanta airport and boarded a plane for Europe. Kevan toured three countries, visiting places that lack handicap-accessible ramps, places that would normally be off-limits to someone with his disability. He even scaled Skellig Michael, a steep mountain island off the coast of Ireland.
How did Kevan do all this? He has friends. Five friends accompanied Kevan and took turns carrying him using a specially-designed backpack, making it possible for Kevan to experience things that would have been impossible on his own. The trip is chronicled in the book We Carry Kevan and the film The View from Here. It’s a simple but amazing story that demonstrates what can happen when we take turns carrying one another’s burdens.
Paul wasn’t thinking of physical burdens when he wrote to the Galatians. Instead, he was thinking of spiritual ones no less debilitating—sins that so easily entangle us. Chapter five of Galatians closed with Paul instructing his friends to walk by the Spirit. Now he says, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). In other words, as we walk by the Spirit, we are to walk alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ. When someone trips headlong into sin, we are to “restore such a person with a gentle spirit” (v.1), helping them get back on their feet so they can continue to walk in “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatian 5:22–23).
The false teachers in Galatia were trying to convince the Galatian Christians they needed to be circumcised and obey certain other rules in order to fulfill the law and be real followers of Christ. But Paul says the only law that matters is “the law of Christ”—and that law is fulfilled when we “carry one another’s burdens.” After all, remember that when Jesus carried His cross through the streets of Jerusalem, falling under its weight, He was carrying our burdens. That cross was our rightful punishment, the curse we deserved for our rebellion against God. We fulfill the law of Christ when we follow Jesus’s lead, bearing the burdens of those whom we love.
Each one of us must battle against his own flesh, the snares of the devil, and the traps of this world, but we don’t fight alone. God has given us the local church, brothers and sisters who also love the Lord, to help us. But all too often we reject this help out of pride, shame, or fear. We don’t share our struggles. We don’t ask for prayer. We don’t confess our sins. And so, we don’t have someone by our side to pick us up when we fall. We spend most of our time at “belt-buckle level,” spiritually speaking.
Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). If we are going to take this command seriously, we can’t live the Christian life as a solo adventure. We must go together, and we must carry one another.
Written by John Greco