Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
Seriously – how epic. Jesus wants his church to be a place where people feel unburdened. It should be a building people are tearing off the roofs to enter – a refuge, a house of hope, a place for healing and companionship and peace. Imagine a forty-pound backpack coming off your shoulders after a hike. It’s wonderful; you feel immune to gravity, able to leap ten feet. That’s Jesus’ vision for the church!
Of course, that’s not what jumps to mind when many people hear the word “church”. They see it as a place where burdens are added, not lifted.
Part of this is not our fault as Christians. Folks feel their sin when God comes near (he’ll do that), and they resent that burden instead of casting it off through repentance. But we do play a role. Too many congregations view their church as a hospital that must be kept sterilized from any sullying influence, forgetting that the point of sterilization is to heal the sick (Luke 5:31). The result is a seeming allergy to anyone carrying sin or brokenness. Sometimes, honestly, it’s no more than irritation at the quirks and sharp edges of others (“Life would be so much easier without people” and all that).
I read a rather brilliant blog post the other day that included this quote: “You are not a burden. You HAVE a burden, which by definition is too heavy to carry on your own.” Yes. The sick cannot carry burdens. They need help. It reminded me of Galatians 6:2, and it got me thinking – what if we viewed the dirtiness and complications of other people, not as threats or inconveniences to ourselves, but as burdens to be carried?
Seems obvious at first.
But have we missed some categories of burdens?