Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. Luke 11:46
The drive of believers for centuries upon centuries has been to follow better; to serve God more faithfully; to live more in line with God’s expectations. And this is as it should be. We should want to be better at following our God.
In that pursuit the gathering of the community of believers has always been central. It is a place where we can instruct, educate and encourage one another in our pursuit of following God.
Again, this is as it should be.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
The problem often is that we tend to slip from encouraging and teaching to “telling” as our means of coaxing one another. We tend to buy into the notion—especially as leaders in the church—that if we’ve told someone to change or what changes need to be made, then we have done our jobs. We are being the community of faith.
We often forget that the journey itself is meant to be experienced as a group effort. Back in Luke 11 Jesus’ issue with the scribes—or experts in the law—is that they load people down with spiritual expectations that become huge burdens for the people. And they never intend to help; they just hand out loads to be carried.
When did, “Come all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” become “go and use this language and do these things and act these ways…?” When did the gospel message go from a gift to a chore? When did the story of love become a list to be done?
Jesus seems to expect that if I am going to tell people where to go and how to get there and what it looks like to follow well then I better get my walking shoes on. We are not on a journey meant to be traveled alone. We do not have loads meant to be carried by one. We do not have the freedom to instruct if we have no intention to lift and hold. We do not have the luxury of standing far off identifying cracks and broken places if we have no intention of getting dirty in the repairing process.
Our faith is not a “do it yourself” business. It is intended to be in your face and in your flaws with love and grace and honesty. It is not for the faint of heart or pretenders who only want the glory and not the muck. It is for those who are willing to be in relationship and in struggle with others and their burdens.
Christian discipleship and leadership are less about instructing others and more about carrying them. Less about lecturing and more about loving. Less about piling on and more about relieving the weight others carry.
It is a hard and sweaty business. And it is what we were made for.
Father, may we not load others down with burdens, but gather them up with arms of love and carry them when they are too tired. May we have patience with them like you have with us. May we walk with them, not over them.