April 11, 2012

Need love? Try loving others!

The biblical definition of love that results in doing good things for others means that these are selfless actions. However, they also have positive results in the lives of those who love this way.
For one thing, doing good to my enemies changes my attitude toward them. While this has not been tested to the extreme (I haven’t many enemies), I cannot remain upset with someone that I am praying for or acting in ways that bless them.

I’m also to love other Christian and help them with their burdens. Normally, this is easy to do, but what if I am burdened myself? How can loving others be anything but an added burden? This passage in Galatians hints at God’s amazing wisdom in asking me to love others, no matter what.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Galatians 6:1–5)
Caring about the needs of someone else keeps me on my toes. That is, I cannot help anyone if I am not walking rightly with the Lord myself. From this passage, that includes being a “spiritual” person who is gentle and who “watches” myself so I am not tempted. That cannot be done without humility and self-awareness. Also, I am to examine my own self lest I think I am better than others. All these are beneficial to my own life.

The last line seems a contradiction from the first part. I can see how bearing one another’s burdens is part of loving my neighbor as myself (the law of Christ), but what about bearing my own load? What if I am weighed down and no one steps up to help me?

Today’s comments on this passage of Scripture are helpful. They explain the reasons why God might ask me to do this.
However perplexed you may at any hour become about some question of truth, one refuge and resource is always at hand: you can do something for someone besides yourself. At the times when you cannot see God, there is still open to you this sacred possibility, to show God: for it is the love and kindness of human hearts through which the divine reality comes home to men, whether they name it or not. Let this thought, then, stay with you: there may be times when you cannot find help, but there is no time when you cannot give help. (George Merriam)
If my problems and perplexities cause me to turn inward and focus only on my own needs, not caring about anyone else, then walking in love toward others is impossible. To turn this around, confession is necessary, but so is the power of God and obedience to His commandments. He cares about my needs, but I must also care about doing what He asks, no matter what is happening in my life.

At this point, I must make a distinction between what this means and what sometimes happens to people who tend to hide their own needs and burdens. Some will wear a perpetual Pollyanna smile to cover any sign of weakness or personal problems. A person that I know well was doing this for years. Eventually, he had a full breakdown and wound up in the hospital.

His “I’m fine all the time” attitude is not what this passage means by bearing your own burden. A spiritual person is also a transparent person. Having a spirit of gentleness is real, never a cover for anything else. Needing to watch myself concerning temptation is real too, because pride and self-deception go hand-in-hand. I cannot project any sort of “I’m fine” when I’m not fine because in those efforts to “look good” I easily can become out of touch with reality, as happened to my friend.

How can I bear my own load and at the same time bear the burdens of others? Only by taking all burdens to the Lord. He invites me to do that, particularly when the “one another’s” is not happening.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)
If I, with burdens that I cannot bear, come to Jesus, He gives me rest for my soul. That is, my inner person is no longer concerned about the weight of that burden. He may not remove it, but He does want to exchange it. In love, He releases me to carry a different load, His burden. Simply put, it is the burden of loving His people, and that burden is light.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)
Doing something for others because of the love of Christ and regardless of my own situation becomes an opportunity to be yoked with Christ. I can be a channel for His love. The weight of my own burden may remain, but it loses its ability to control me. 

Lord, Your ways are certainly not like our human ways. We either ignore our own needs to help others, or cannot help others because our own needs are too overwhelming. You did neither. You went to the cross asking that the cup be removed (God, fix My need), but said, “Nevertheless, Thy will be done (But if You don’t, I will obey You anyway). By that great humility, Your love went to work in the midst of Your own pain, making eternal life possible for a dying world. In these verses, I hear You asking for that same attitude in me. I’m to bear the burdens of others, even when I have a burden of my own, for in showing Your love to them, they will be able to see You.

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