Pastoral Perspectives

Bear One Another’s Burden

Love God • Make Disciples! You would have heard this mission statement mentioned many times in this church. So how are disciples made? I have known people who differentiate disciples from believers or Christ-followers from Christians. But I understand from the Bible that when a person has believed in his heart that Jesus is Lord and Savior, he is a believer, a Christian, a Christ-follower, a disciple, but more importantly a child of God. There’s no difference to me. The person would then begin his journey of growing in the faith and knowledge of God until he is made perfect on that glorious Day. The right question to ask is whether he is growing or not!

A disciple is also not made by attending programs and collecting certificates but by living the Christian lives through observing the teachings that have been passed down to us as the holy and inspired words of God. It is about living in the Spirit and no longer in the flesh and sharing lives together in a Christian community. In my message during Watch Night service, I shared on bearing with one another in love in order to maintain unity in the Spirit. That’s a mark of discipleship.

In this perspective, allow me to share another of Paul’s mark of discipleship. He writes, “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. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbour. 5For each will have to bear his own load.” (Gal 6:1-5)

Paul gives us three principles for Spirit-filled discipleship as disciples share lives together. Let us bear these in mind as we welcome 2016 together as a church.

1. We are our brother keepers (verse 1)

When a brother has fallen into sin, we must seek to restore him in gentleness. Our problem is that we may unconsciously gloat over him first before we restore him, for his trespass somehow made us feel that we are more spiritual than him. So before we do anything to help him, we shake our head and wonder why and tell ourselves that if we were there, we would have stopped him. When that happens, we restore him not in a spirit of gentleness but of pride.

While it may be true that we are more spiritual than the fallen brother, the greater truth is that temptations abound to all people. We must recognize that we are all vulnerable to temptations and that it is the grace of God that has kept us from falling and not because we are some great heroes of faith. This should make us tremble in fear before God. So let us help to bear each other’s burden by watching over each other’s back and seeking to restore a brother in gentleness when he has fallen.

2. We walk the road together (verse 2 and 3)

The Scribes and Pharisees were to disciple the Jews back in Jesus’ days. However they made the law heavy for the people to bear but they would not do them, not even with one of their fingers. That’s why the Lord says they sit at Moses’ seat and the people were to do what they say and not what they do, because what they do were detestable before God (Matt. 23:1-7). Are we also in danger of becoming like the Scribes and Pharisees, i.e. we teach but not do them?

For example, we warn a new convert that he must not have anything to do with pagan practices anymore. But it is okay for us because we know idols are nothing and that there is no God but one. In doing so, we think highly of ourselves and leave him with a heavy burden to bear, so that if he does not do what we say, he sins and if he does what we do, he also sins. We have become like the Scribes and Pharisees. Remember Paul’s words when he writes, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (1Cor 8:13)

Our attitude must be the same of Paul’s so that we will not cause a brother to fall by our actions. We should model our lives in humble and loving ways for others to learn and follow. So instead of saying, “Come, sit down and let me tell you what you should do...” let us hold the person’s hand and say, “Come, let us walk together and observe me.”

3. We are not excess baggage (verse 4 and 5)

Each person has his own work. It is his responsibility and so let him take pride in how he does it for God. Christians can be perpetual burden to others by not wanting to do their own work. They abuse the call to bear another’s burden by letting their work become unnecessary burden for others to bear. In doing so, they not only hinder the work of the kingdom but also become bad testimonies. This is not a sign of living in the Spirit but being lazy in the flesh. So let us do our own work as our act of service and worship to God. Do not let others do it for you such that there is nothing left for you to present to God.

Rev Ronnie Ang

January 10, 2016