Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Burden of Community

Galatians 6:2 says to, "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." I've been thinking about this a lot lately and what it really means in a practical way. What did Paul mean by saying we "fulfill the law of Christ" when we "carry each others' burdens"? When we think of community in today's culture, "burden" is not typically a phase that comes to mind. But could it be that carrying others' burdens is a central aspect to the Gospel and thus an essential to healthy community?

What does it mean if a central part of fulfilling the Kingdom of God is carrying others' burdens? What does it say about modern Western Christianity's and it's emphasis on individualism? And what about prayer and corporate times of worship? I mean, how often do we seek to hear from God or experience Him for our own concerns rather than connecting with others? If we're honest with ourselves, most of our prayer and worship focuses on "us" rather than "them".     

If we look at scripture and history, we see that carrying others' burdens was a central aspect to the early church. In Acts 2 we see that the early Christian community "had everything in common" and provided for one another so no one would be in need. Not a very common part of our culture today.  But Paul also wrote often about not being a burden unnecessarily (2 Corinthians 12:14, 1 Thessalonians 2:9, and Hebrews 13:17). And he also talked about bearing with one another by being compassionate and patient. (Colossians 3:12–13, Ephesians 4:2).

God's gives us examples of carrying other's burdens as well, especially our own. Psalm 68:19 says, "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." And looking at Matthew 11 and Galatians 5, we see that Christ is portrayed as the one who frees us from heavy burdens. So, I think we can build a good case that carrying others' burdens is truly central to following Christ.  But what does that look like in real life? In community?   

My first thought is that perhaps a great place to start is simply to be with the people we serve. Asking them questions, getting to know them as human beings, helping to carry their loneliness, fear, and doubts could be places to begin. Needing others and being part of real community is part of how we were made.  We were created to instinctively long for connections in authentic vibrant community. When we are actively involved in community, we find that the focus deviates from ourselves and naturally toward others. Cultural individualism desolves and we find that carrying others burdens is not a burden for ourselves, but a blessing.   

No comments: