‘My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.’ Galatians 6:1,2
Some of the most tragic words I ever hear are the words of an elderly person ‘I do not want to be a burden’ [I hear many that are tragic and I miss the tragedy of them, in all likelihood most of our words are tragic]
This is a denial of our dignity as persons, and that it comes so readily not only to the lips of the elderly is a sign that we have chosen Cain’s lie. ‘We are individuals! Are we our brothers’ keeper??!!’ I am not responsible for you, neither are you for me.
To be ‘an individual’ – refusing to be a burden is to live a double lie. In truth we cannot help but be a burden – our lives are all interconnected however much the prince of this present age tells us otherwise. Every word, every action of our lives impinges on others, those we see and those we will never know. We are burdensome – and if we cannot see it in those around us, surely we can see it in the Creation of which we are an inextricable part. ‘All Creation groans’ . . .
And secondly we lie for the word of LIFE is that in burden bearing we are fulfilling the law of Christ. He who bore our burdens gladly commands us so to do. It is the way of discipleship.
Of course we shy from ‘being a burden’ for we understand ‘burden’ in negative terms – again our vision is distorted by the evil one. We do not hear the words of the Life Giving One – ‘my yoke is easy, my burden is light’. Burden bearing is understood to be grievous to us, and thus being a burden is transformed from part of God’s intention for us, to a form of sin.
At its darkest this is expressed through our rush to kill all those who are burdensome to us. Starting with the unborn, moving on to those who are terribly ill, then the elderly, ‘next they came for’ . . . we have been here before . . . Evil teaches us we are individuals, denies that our Life is with the other.
For now briefly I will pursue this alien thought that burden bearing Is a Joy.
A couple of days ago I spoke about a community of healing, where the burden of lives were gladly shared one with another. [HERE]
I make two comments in this regard. Firstly, in the eyes of the world these people were nothing – the bottom of the pile, the despised, the ‘tax collectors and prostitutes’ of our day. For many it was their sense that there was no value to their lives that had led them into drug addiction. Now they found themselves amongst a group of people who loved them, not because of any status or what they could do for one another. They saw that they were under the same condemnation and received mercy, one from another.
As I said, there were some for whom the time in community did not work. Those for whom the light of freedom was too bright – those imprisoned and institutionalised in one way or another. Those behind black iron bars, and those in gilded cages, who could not believe that Life was to be found amongst the poor and destitute, amongst the tax collectors and Prostitutes, who denied that they had been humbled and that the door of Life stood open.
Secondly, they were joyful for knowing the wonder of being relieved of their burdens – the healing power of Grace and forgiveness they were quick to extend the hand of Grace to those amongst whom they found themselves.
They saw themselves in the other – they recognised their common condition – they gladly threw away pride. Burdens gladly born in a community of healing, a community of LIFE.