Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bearing Others Burdens

Christians are not expected to live the Christian life alone. Rather, we are to live it in community. This is meant to be an aid for growing in Christ. But there are many hindrances in the way of living in Christian community. Now living in community will never be perfect as long as we are sinful people living in a sinful world. But it helps to have guidelines.

We need to properly correct those who are in error (Galatians 6:1; Matthew 18:15-18; 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15). Now we need to do this, and not just ignore the problem and try to sweep it under the rug like the Corinthians did (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). We need to approach it with gentleness, with an effort to restore the person (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Hebrews 12:12,13; Jude 22,23). Our goal should not be condemnation and exclusion, but bringing them back to the right track. And we need to avoid allowing them to pull us down with them. This implies a real involvement in their lives to try to help them. 

We also need to help those who are burdened and in trouble (Galatians 6:2; Romans 12:15; 1 Corinthians 12:26). We should not be interested just in our own good, but also in the good of others (Galatians 6:9,10; Romans 15:1,2; Philippians 2:3,4). This can mean helping people out at the physical level (1 John 3:16-18; James 2:15,16; Romans 12:13). But more often it means being an encouragement to those in need (Hebrews 10:24-25; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Philippians 2:1,2). However, we need to be mindful of those in need in order to help them.

This does not mean that every person should not do their own part, whether in the Christian (Galatians 6:3-5; Romans 12:3-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-25) or the secular realm (2 Thessalonians 3:10-13; Ephesians 4:28; Proverbs 6:6-11). Now there is a delicate balance here. We do need to help out people in need. But we also need to encourage everyone to do their own work. The picture of a body means that every part is important and we need to help each other out. But it also means every part is necessary and should be required to make their unique contribution. We need to avoid letting one get in the way of the other. Part of this balance is that we need to provide for the financial needs of ministers, that they may be freed up to perform their function in the body (Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17,18; 1 Corinthians 9:7-11). But in everything we need to work together to accomplish God’s purposes in the world (Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 2:19; Matthew 16:18). 

In all these things, the basis for our living together is grace (Romans 5:1,2; 8:33,34; Galatians 2:20). For it is only by accepting grace and offering grace to others that we can live together. For it is only in grace that we are truly set free to serve others (Galatians 5:13,14; Romans 12:1,2; Titus 2:11-14).

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