The Ministry of Burdens: Part Two

August 16, 2010

In yesterday’s post we talked about how bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) suggests that our brother or sister in Christ will become a burden to us. Too often we think that living life together will come at no cost to us personally. But just as bearing the burden of our sin came at great cost to Christ (Isaiah 53:4-5), it bears remembering that when we forbear with others in their weaknesses, oddities and sins, it will come at great cost to us as well.

Bearing another’s burden also means that we must embrace another’s freedom to be themselves. This is to remember that each person is uniquely fashioned in the image of God. This image is marred and fallen, but we bear the image nonetheless.

When we enter into relationship with others there is an inevitable collision: the autonomy of one person collides with another. Who you are, what you value, how you express yourself, will inevitably have collide head-long into the personality, preferences and passions of someone else. This will result in conflict, disagreements, divisions and factions. In an effort to avoid this collision we are temped to manipulate, constrain or change others to make them more like we wish them to be. After all, there is no possibility for collision when we are set on the same course.

Think of it this way. Some of our relationships fit neatly into our lives, where there is very little infringement upon our autonomy. We share similar interests and values. Our personalities mesh. Our ambitions rarely collide. We fit together like a round block sliding into a round hole.

But other relationships are much more difficult. We find our preferences and desires colliding with the preferences and desires of others. The oddities in these relationships are not easy to bear. However, we recognize that in Christ we are called to value this person as an image-bearer. To compensate we tend to force our desires and expectations upon this person, hoping to change them into someone we much prefer over their current state of being. In doing this we are attempting to force the proverbial square peg into a round hole, and we aren’t afraid to use hammers and chisels to get our way!

Here is the wisdom that we need: Let God create His image in them (Philippians 1:6).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his masterpiece Life Together, is very instructive here.

The freedom of the other person includes all that we mean by a person’s nature, individuality, [and] endowment. It also includes his weaknesses and oddities, which are such a trial to our patience, everything that produces frictions, conflicts, and collisions among us. To bear the burden of the other person means involvement with the created reality of the others, to accept and affirm it, and, in bearing with it, to break through to the point where we take joy in it.”

Bonhoeffer’s point is not simply that we endure one another, embracing the obligation to love our brother or sister who annoys us. We often take this attitude: “Well, I love them, but I sure don’t like them!” This isn’t what it means to bear another’s burden. To actually bear another’s burden is to embrace our brother as he is, and take joy in who he is and who God is making him to be.

Take a moment and think of a difficult relationship you have with someone in the Body at Concord. Do you take joy in how unique that person is as an image bearer? Are you concerned for their well-being in Christ, or do you find yourself avoiding them? How you answer this question will reveal whether or not you are fulfilling the law of Christ in relationship to them.


One Response to “The Ministry of Burdens: Part Two”

  1. […] We must embrace another’s freedom to be themselves. […]

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