If you missed my last writing, I centered on the This Is Us national craze: the TV series which follows Jack, Rebecca, Kate, Kevin, and Randall – and the drama of their extended family across multiple generations. I likened it to us as a church family: highly fallible, yet committed to each other no matter what.
I focused on Galatians 6:2, where Paul instructs us: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” And I left you thinking about all of our divinely-appointed situations and circumstances – all of the nuances of our own lives through which Christ is teaching us how to love. How to really love.
I’ve been thinking about love, and I want to give you something to ponder as well: To truly bear the burden of another person is directly contrary to every prideful “religious” impulse in us. Think about it. To really care about someone else – to the point of actually doing something to help their predicament – is the exact opposite of what Jesus observed on the part of the Pharisees. Those Pharisees were the religious leaders, for sure, but they were lost as a goose. Consider, for example, the statement of Jesus in Matthew 23:4, where our Lord described the Pharisees like this: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”
What are we to learn? For starters, simply this: sometimes we can be blinded by our own zeal. Perhaps you’ve heard the adage: “People don’t care how much you know ‘til they know how much you care.” So true. Sometimes those around us need more than our verbalized theology, but the need may be for something as simple as a listening ear, a word of appreciation, or an offer to take their kid to the ballpark. What’s one more in the van, anyway? My point is that the gospel of Christ can sometimes be lived out by us in ways that require very little of us. But we must be living it out! The good news of Jesus was never meant to be words alone (James 2:17).
We must also make certain that we’re not emitting false impressions of our own “goodness” or our own “spiritual success.” You’ve heard it like this: “Never believe your own press.” Sometimes we try so hard to look our very best that we become unapproachable in the eyes of others. Let’s avoid that kind of smug superiority at all costs. It only weighs people down, and it never lifts them up.
If all we’re doing for others is constantly telling them how they “should” live as a “good Christian,” then we’re doing more harm than good. We’re no better than the Pharisees. Our hope is not in who we “should” be, but our hope is in the finished work of Jesus Christ. His yoke is easy because He has already carried the heaviest burden for us. The Pharisees so majored on life’s “should’s” that they lost sight of the bigger picture of grace.
And, if we must on occasion point out the wrongs of another, we better get our own house in order first (Matthew 7:3-5)! After all, the only right reason for pointing out another’s imperfection – Jesus made it quite clear – is so that we can help our brother or sister rise above it. I’d call that love.
I’ll share more thoughts on this subject in my next blog posting. Please stay tuned.
This is us.