Do you know this drill? “O, I’m so sorry. What do you need? Well, let me know if there’s anything I can do.” And then get out of Dodge before any specifics are discussed.
Such a drill is a band-aid on a guilty conscience but it bears no resemblance to “bearing each other’s burdens.” Gal. 6:2
Just exactly what does that need to look like for me? For you?
There is apparent tension between what Paul says in Galatians 6:2 and what James writes in James 2:14 – 16: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds… Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If any one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well. Keep warm and well-fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Where is the manual for parsing these principles?
Certainly, “to bear another’s burden” doesn’t mean standing back with arms folded assessing their progress. Nor is it running along beside someone carrying a heavy burden shouting encouragement. Bearing another’s burden must include in some way taking on that burden as if it were your or my own.
Clearly Jesus calls us by His Word and His strong example to love with both mercy and grace. He also sets the pace in helping the wounded, loving the hurting and doing whatever it takes to meet a burdening need. He stopped in mid-stride – while he was on a very important mission to save a VIP man’s daughter – to help a woman who simply touched his robe. (Mark 5:24 – 34)
So yesterday after church when a family group showed up asking for money, was I wrong to question the legitimacy of the need based on past experience with this same family unit? How does the principle of “being wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16) apply? Was I – in fact – guilty of doing exactly what James suggests is a travesty of faith: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If any one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well. Keep warm and well-fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”?
There is perhaps more than a little irony in the fact that I left church to literally help someone lift some logs at the bottom of our drive. It was really not a “woman task” - especially not two women way into their middle years - but we were stubborn enough to do it.
So are “burdens” on some hidden scale? Logs belong to my friend and me; money and food belong to someone else.
Hmmm! At least it has me thinking and wondering - which has to be a first step!
Now the phone rings: “Hello” “Can you help keep some special needs kids while their parents enjoy a coffee house experience in three days?” I have to smile. God MUST have a sense of humor. He certainly is giving me opportunity to continue my quest to understand what it means “to come when called” – to bear another’s burden!
What is becoming crystal clear in my fog of wonder is that it all requires a changed heart! It's just not natural to put others first, and that's a very good thing! "Natural" is not the path to restoration!