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27 February 2008

Sharing One Another's Burdens

I haven't forgotten my agenda, honestly, but here goes another post that's not along those lines.

Bill Fowler made a post at Work, Write, Worship this week that essentially asked if it's judgmental or self-righteous to intervene (maybe a strong word) when a Christ-following friend veers off the path of "righteousness." My short answer would be a definite, "No," but I commend the person who is able to see this in his friend, yet avoid rendering judgment on the friend's motives and eternal destiny. The course of action is prescribed in the Scriptures. The blog is Bill's, but my comment there is its own little mini-blog (and for that reason I hesitated a little bit to post this here -- feels like a blog hijack).

How are we to know if something like this (a major sin) is happening in the lives of our friends? How are we supposed to know the troubles they're dealing with? What about the great things happening in their lives that are causes for celebration?

Galatians 6:1-3 (NLT) says, "Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important."

We stay close to other people! The Christ-follower is part of a worldwide and local community of believers, and should live a life that speaks of that community through actions. For me, that feels a little crazy and goes against the grain. I've lived a life in which I much prefer to keep people, even friends, at arms' length. (Not because of some psychological situation where I don't want to be hurt. No, nothing that elegant. Rather, as I believe I've said before, I'm just not naturally predisposed to like people. Horrible to say, I know, but God has done an amazing work in my life in that area. I don't think all people are cretins anymore!)

We can't share burdens with anyone if we're not close enough to even touch the burden. There were two instances this week that brought this to my mind.

First, a friend e-mailed me some specific information, asking me to pray for someone we both know. He apologized for dumping a lot of information on me, but it was great! It enables me to pray for this person in a way that makes the situation more relevant to me and broadens my understanding. I'm better-equipped to speak to and potentially help this person now, and can pray more specifically.

Second, I was reminded of a friend's surgery this week, and I'd been firing on all cylinders with my own stuff the past couple of weeks that I'd forgotten about it! This is a pretty negative thing. Now it's time for me to make up for it, and to remember that the life of a Christian is a life of balance.

My encouragement to you as a Christ-follower is to be a friend to those around you; not a nosy busybody, but a friend. There is a judgmentalism that can accompany this if we're not on our guard.


Bill Fowler said...

The Galatians verse nails it. This is a delicate process - that of notifying one who may have strayed off the path and provide a nudge in the right direction. I dare compare this to defusing a bomb... "cut the blue wire, NO the red one!". Cut the wrong one, or nudge too heavily and you have what we typed about last week - a Christ-Follower, self-righteousness explosion and you give us all a bad name. You have to know what "delicate" means otherwise you really can push someone further away.

The origin of my post is of course a very real situation. A few of them actually. At the moment, I choose to live my own life an example and hope those in question notice my dedication to my principals. Other denominations will call me lazy. So be it. That's where I am now. I'd like to keep these friends.

Tony M said...

Yep, I think it's the being close that helps. If you're only an arm's-length friend, then it's not likely people will know of whatever it is that you're struggling with (until it's too late). If you have a few close, intimate friends, ones you can share anything with, and whom you see and communicate with on a regular enough basis, they'll know when something amiss. Obviously your spouse (if you have one) should be your closest friend.

I admit, I don't have a whole lot of friends I'd put in that "close, intimate" category... but the one(s) I have do seem to know me pretty well, and have asked when things seem amiss, and usually they are. And for that, I'm grateful.

Not sure if this really goes superbly well with your original blog post, but maybe it does, somehow, fit...

Preston N said...

I agree with Tony's comment here and that is you need to be close to that person in order to speak into that persons life. Greg Boyd once made a great comment about this topic, he said "In order to speak into someone elses life, you must first have the authority to do so". In other words, we must first gain the right and the priviledge to speak into that person's life about the sin or the problem. (Not to mention making sure we don't have a 2x4 sticking out of our own eye before we take the speck out of theirs).

Dean Lusk said...

I wholeheartedly agree (about having to basically earn our way into even having a right to speak about some things).

This is starting to get into the "evangelical faith" area. Some call it "lifestyle evangelism," but... that phrase makes the whole thing sound a little lazy to me.

In order to have my words received by someone as positive, constructive, or helpful, I have to first show that I really, honestly care about that person and not my own agenda. I think this is where we Christians sometimes derail ourselves. It sometimes seems like we "care" about people only when they violate our personal moral code (which may or may not be grounded in the Word of God) -- then the kid gloves are off, by golly!

At least, that's my perception, which could possibly be faulty (but I don't think so). :)

Christy said...

I want to make a few comments which may or may not be extremely relevant to this post. My first comment is this: Dean, this is my favorite post of yours so far (give credit to Bill also since he inspired you). My second comment is on your admission that God has done a tremendous work in you. I see it every Sunday when you lead worship and it makes me smile! You now look as if you are truly enjoying your leadership role and it is inspirational. My third comment would be that I agree with the keeping our friends on track (if we are truly ourselves on track). However, it is still a very delicate thing to approach. I hope that you and Callie will always be willing to call me on things when necessary (I know that would probably be a full-time job, though). If we are bearing one anothers burdens, then it is much easier to hold each other accountable on a day-to-day basis. We are also to rejoice with one another - not be envious or covetous (which hasn't been a problem in my opinion. I just thought I'd mention it).

Tony M said...

Let me second Christy's second comment... it really is a joy and pleasure to be there when you are leading worship (mainly by worshiping yourself), and your growth as a leader (not just in worship, but in the whole church itself) is awesome to watch. Thanks for sacrificing yourself to His work!

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