Monday, July 05, 2010

Bearing another's burdens

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6.1-2)

If we see someone coming back from the co-op with heavy bags of shopping – and they're limping – and you can see that they have a bad back – and they're having to stop every five yards because they're short of breath – et cetera... then the normal human reaction is to feel compassion, and desire to help. In a sense this is easy - we can see that a person is struggling, and their struggle has nothing to do with us. That is, our own hang-ups are not involved.

If, however, we see someone speaking angrily about us, calling us lots of names and threatening us with all sorts of dire consequences – then the response of compassion is much harder to find. Yet, from a Christian point of view, the two situations are the same – the one who is being overcome by sin is the one who is greatly in need of loving and compassionate help – of being restored in a spirit of gentleness, as Paul puts it.

This is much harder. It is much harder because we do not have the necessary distance from our own spiritual weaknesses. We resist and defend ourselves - and this demonstrates our lack of faith. We have but one defender, and our trust is in him. When sinned against, we are often so conscious of our own hurts – how could a person do such a thing? Yet if we can step back from that immediate feeling, it may be possible to ponder the well springs for the hurtful action. People who are hurt themselves tend to be the ones hurting others – this is the burden of sin that we are called to help people to bear.

Our calling is not to judge, not to condemn, but to forgive - and in forgiving, to find that we are forgiven ourselves.


  1. This is really good, Rev. Sam. This is the kind of difficult thing that faith actually consists of - and the kind of thing that could present anyone with a continuous and consistent challenge over a lifetime.

    Christianity is kind of an "Outward Bound" in the wilderness of the soul sometimes....

  2. Yes, though perhaps the final line can also be reversed: our calling is not to judge, not to condemn, but to discover that we are forgiven, and in our forgiveness to find that can forgive others.


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