Lent Reflection 3 :: The Thing About Crosses, pt. 2

Last week, I wrote about the public nature of “bearing our crosses”; how they aren’t easily hidden, and are pretty obvious to people. I challenged you all to take up a cross with someone, and share it with someone. Maybe you did that; maybe you didn’t.

That’s the nature of the interwebs, I guess.

But I thought some more about crosses this week (it being Lent, and all), and something struck me from the other side of the equation. 

I remember sitting with a friend of mine once who was going through some really heavy, trying times. We were sitting outside at a local coffee shop (because where else do pastors hang out <snark>), and she was just crying and crying. Then she began apologizing because of the crying. It was a vicious circle.

I stopped her, as best I could, and said, “Please don’t apologize for your tears. You have to understand—for pastors, these tears are a precious gift to us, because they are your deepest fears and hurts. You are giving them to us to share and to care for, and they are precious to us. This is a gift; don’t ever apologize for your tears.”

In a letter to the church in Galatia, Paul the apostle wrote, “Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2 CEB).

I’m used to thinking about “burdens” in a very tangible sense (in fact, I preached on it once): bills, sicknesses, and physical needs. This is true and necessary, and it remains true and necessary. Reaching out to help people walk through life is no small thing, and every time we help our brothers and sisters, we are truly “fulfilling the law of Christ.”

But the main “burden” that Jesus tells us to carry for ourselves is the cross. 

(See where I’m going here?)

So as we (and the folks around us) take up our crosses—our own obvious instruments of pain and torture that we experience—at the same time, we need to be reaching out and helping others bear those same crosses.

So last week, I was thinking about what it takes to share the nature of our own crosses.

This week, I’m thinking about what it takes to bear others folks’ crosses.

Someday, someone may offer you the gift of their tears, their hurts, and their shame. How will you respond?

Will you treat it like a gift? A cross that you help carry?

Or an inconvenience, an embarrassment?

I guess in a way I’m saying that we don’t walk this journey towards Jerusalem alone; we need to help each other, and share what we can, so that we can all get there.

Like you didn’t know this one was coming….. 

But this is so very tasty too….

 

peace and blessings

*e

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Burden-Bearing and the Cross

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

It’s so easy to separate loving God from loving others. It’s easy to think that one must come before the other; that one is an “add-on” to the Gospel.

But that’s not the way the Gospel works at all. God loves to join together things that don’t seem to belong together. I believe He loves to constantly reveal the astonishing way that things are all interconnected.

The cross of Jesus is a overwhelming commentary on the unity of loving God and loving others.

When Paul writes in Galatians to “share each other’s burdens” (some of us know this phrase as “bear each other’s burdens”) in order to obey the law of Christ, our ears ought to stand up.

What is the law of Christ? 

Simply put, the law of Christ can be found in Mark 12:28-34 (also in Matthew 22:34-40 and Luke 10:25-25 [in Luke read through verse 37 to show how wide Jesus’ understanding is of the word, “neighbor”]). A religious leader asks Jesus what the most commandment is. Jesus responds, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

In a sense, Jesus does nothing new here: all of Israel knew the first phrase. Every Jew was to pray the she’ma—the affirmation that God is one, and you must love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength—multiple times a day. It was a bedrock statement for all Jews. However, with the second statement, Jesus does make a bit of a leap, for he connects Leviticus 19 (the command to love your neighbor as yourself) intrinsically with the she’ma. 

Much of Jesus’ ministry united these two realities. But it all culminated powerfully in the work of cross.

At the cross, fulfilled his own commandment from Mark 12 by bearing our burdens: of sin, of shame, of rejection. He took upon himself all of these things in order to take them off of us. It wasn’t just a “spiritual act” between himself and God the Father; it was a profoundly communal act as well.

So when Paul (or any preacher worth his salt) tells us in turn, “bear each other’s burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ,” we can be reminded of a few things:

  • “Burden-bearing” is a way in which we can embrace the cross in our lives. When we take on the burden of suffering of someone in God’s family, we are following the model of the cross of Jesus. It is not “merely” a friendly act; it’s much more than being “neighborly”; it is, in fact, Gospel—”Good news”—to the world.
  • Relatedly, the cross is our model for burden-bearing. It involves suffering, and a weakening. Rather than seek to triumph in the eyes of the world, Jesus chose to empty himself and suffer, eventually dying a criminal’s death on the cross.
  • The cross and the church are intrinsically related. You can’t separate our salvation from our attitudes towards each other. If you try to tear them apart, you end up with a truncated, compartmentalized gospel.