Bearing One Another’s Burdens
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”—Galatians 6:1,2
The Apostle Paul is here addressing brethren, New Creatures in Christ, for their upbuilding and edification. As New Creatures, these have the same earthly body—the same appearance, customs and habits—but are no longer reckoned according to the human nature.
The world may discern that they have different tastes and ideals that seem a little peculiar but does not ascribe this to any actual transaction which has occurred from the divine standpoint.
We still come in contact with others of Adamic stock and communicate with them through our human body. We have certain obligations with regard to human affairs. We are to “provide things honest in the sight of all men.” (Rom. 12:17) “He that provideth not for his own hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim. 5:8)
Transactions at work or in the store are obviously on the human level, though spiritual principles must guide. All true Christians can attest that having the New Creature do exactly what it should is an arduous task.
“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”—Galatians 5:17
It is most necessary that we focus upon how to live in the midst of comforts and material advantages and yet maintain the ascendancy over our flesh.
Despite the economic problems which presently exist in our land, we live at a time and in a country that has far better temporal conditions than those who live in other parts of the world, and surely far better now than those which were experienced by the early church.
We have much more wealth, better homes and furnishings, and travel facilities, with roads, trains, buses, and airplanes. This has made the world a much smaller place, and we can be with distant brethren in one day or less, from one side of the world to the other.
We have conveniences in our times, including telephones and electrical appliances which quickly do the work that formerly had to be completed in a laborious manner by hand. There are a hundredfold more things which relate to the earth that can attract our attention, our ambition, our desires.
Stress and the Christian Warfare
As New Creatures, we are fighting a warfare against the world, the flesh and the adversary, and we are to control the old will of the flesh, to keep that dead. We can’t relax our efforts, because like the sparks which fly upward, the old human will is prone to resuscitate itself, if it were possible, and to follow its own pursuits.
As we come to understand more perfectly the will of God (and the scriptures tell us it relates to our sanctification) we will certainly work to keep our bodies under control, even though the flesh will balk and fight against this effort.
Furthermore, we as well as the rest of mankind are living in times of great stress. There are concerns in our lives that don’t necessarily relate to the New Creature, such as bereavement, handling finances, problems that may engulf members of our natural family, physical or mental sufferings which we may encounter, a sudden disaster which comes upon us, and various perplexities associated with daily life.
The Error of the Unsettled
“Ye therefore, beloved (the Church), seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.” (II Peter 3:17)
The word “wicked” comes from Strong’s 113; a better term is “unsettled.” There are presently some theories and teachings which might attract our attention and potentially lead us astray.
Testings and siftings have come upon the Church during the Gospel age and throughout the harvest even until now. If we do not resist them steadfastly, we could be led away with the errors of the unsettled, through sympathy with them or by actual participation if we permit features of nominalism to attract us, and begin to embrace some of its errors or inducements.
“If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such a one.” (Gal. 6:1) The word “fault” comes from Strong’s 3900, “paraptoma;” and, although we generally think of it being connected with some trespass or sin, it also has the meaning of “deviation.” Now, for the consecrated and spirit-begotten who have been enlightened by the Harvest Message, a return to worship in Babylon would at the very least be a deviation from our truth heritage and has a more serious potential if one should remain there.
The phenomenon of nominal inducements has been most pronounced among younger Christians, but there are those who have been in the way for a much longer period of time who find devotional and reverential aspects of worship in the sectarian systems appealing.
Restoration vs. Prevention
We would like to reverse the order of that passage in Galatians 6:1,2 for a moment to consider that one’s being overtaken in a fault or deviation, and need for restoration, might be prevented if such a one had received earlier assistance in having their burdens borne.
To the extent that we are mutually supportive in striving to edify and build up one another, we should be attuned to clues, especially in our home ecclesia, which indicate that individuals are not deriving an increasing level of spiritual satisfaction as would be expected among the consecrated who appreciate the beauties of the divine plan.
Romans 15:1,2 also expresses the thought of bearing one another’s burdens: “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
Those who are strong in the faith must sacrifice a personal preference if by some means they would be able to assist those who need additional counseling.
An example of this might be a preference by those most spiritually mature to exercise themselves upon the strong meat of the Truth exclusively when there may be a number in their fellowship who require more of the milk of the Word. In helping to please our brethren for their good, let us take the time and effort to assist them spiritually at the level in which they find themselves so that they will progress to assimilate the stronger food which might be preferred by those who are more able to partake of deeper truths.
The Body Supports the Body
As we grow in Christ, we note that we must grow in knowledge and in grace. The concept of bearing one another’s burdens implies the development and practice of sympathy on our parts toward others of the body as we see that they have such needs.
In the natural order of things, the human body is sympathetic to the needs of all its members. For example, if one should be eating a piece of food, and should choke upon it, immediately the head or the brain which governs the other parts of the body would send a signal so that all of the various members might be marshaled in order to prevent injury to the body as a whole. The feet would be instructed to rush into the kitchen, the hands to remove a glass from the cabinet, the fingers to turn on the faucet so that it might be filled with water, and then the mouth would open and swallow the liquid so that the choking would cease.
In similar fashion, if you are walking and slip on a waxy floor, immediately the brain would instruct the arms to position themselves in a certain manner to break the fall so that no vital organs might be injured.
The Care of the Body of Christ
When we come to the body of Christ, we are directed by the Head to demonstrate special care for all of the members. We quote John 13:34,35, the words which Jesus gave to his disciples prior to his crucifixion: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
I Corinthians 12:12-14 expresses it this way from the pen of the Apostle Paul: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For the body is not one member, but many.”
This concept of having a mutual concern for the body, a mutual sympathy, is to be internalized and practiced if we are actually becoming transformed in the way in which our Master desires.
Practical Helps for the Spiritual Body
One of the practices which the Lord’s people have adopted during this harvest period, is that of reading the morning Manna. This has provided many benefits spiritually and has helped to give us a sense of focus for the day. The text and comments for May 23 are appropriate: “Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
“This would signify that the members of Christ’s body should have a mutual watch-care over one another’s welfare; to keep each other clean, holy, pure, and to assist one another in overcoming the trials and temptations and besetments of this present evil world, arising from the three sources of temptation, ‘the world, the flesh and the devil.’ Only as we cultivate the various graces of the spirit,—meekness, patience, gentleness, brotherly kindness, love—can we hope to be especially helpful to others in putting on these adornments of character and purities of life, and to get rid of defilements of the world, and the flesh.”
These comments emphasize the mutual responsibility we have as part of the body to be solicitous of the needs which each one of us has.
Noting the Needs of the Body
As long as we are sojourning here in this fleshly tabernacle, we will not be perfected in the divine bodies that will be ours beyond the veil. Hence, being a New Creature does not eliminate certain emotional requirements associated with our humanity, especially as we react to certain stresses and problems which we, as well as others in the world who are not part of the body, face on a continuous basis.
Truly, we need to develop and manifest sympathy to all who have needs.
For some there has been a desire for a greater sense of spiritual or emotional bonding than is presently being experienced.
In other cases, there have been difficulties to maintain a fully consecrated lifestyle in the face of certain pressures; and because some of the circumstances which presently surround us were not widely prevalent during the earlier Harvest ministry, we do not find any specific advice in that writing for dealing with such matters.
Within our fellowship, the utilization of outside professional counseling (even if the practitioners of this discipline are not consecrated Christians) has been advocated as a means of helping to alleviate these problems.
Not to seem overly simplistic, and certainly not to denigrate the skills of trained counselors, consider carefully the familiar adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” To the extent this concept is employed spiritually, we might have far less seeking of outside help among the brotherhood.
The Ecclesia as a Support
The home ecclesia, or congregation, is a very special arrangement which God has provided to help strengthen and sustain his people throughout the age. It is an environment which should produce a sense of mutual warmth and nurturing, and facilitate the meeting of both individual and group needs so that there is optimal spiritual growth and development.
Certain principles can be adapted to fit current problems experienced among us. In the book The New Creation, under the caption “Order and Discipline in the New Creation,” a variety of meetings are detailed which would be most helpful in order to strengthen the body and upbuild it in the most holy faith.
It is indicated in these writings that, strange as it may seem, growth in knowledge is liable to detract from devotion, and as Christians we are not to be all head and no heart, neither are we to be all heart and no head.
It is also emphasized that the qualities of devotion should not be neglected, otherwise our love for and interest in the Truth will degenerate. Instead of having our heart appreciation develop with a desire to please, honor and serve the Lord, there would be a tendency towards mental philosophy which can encourage combativeness, destructiveness, ambition, strife and vainglory.
The Testimony Meeting as a Support
We can see the wisdom of the suggestion that not only should devotion be a part of each meeting, but that there be a separate, regular devotional meeting for up-to-date testimonies which can encourage participation, enjoyment and comfort with regard to the experiences, favorable or unfavorable, that we have had.
This kind of environment is extremely comforting because it enables us to discern that we are not alone, and in fact it fosters sympathy and helpfulness as we recognize the Lord’s providences in the lives of our brethren so that we may be comforted and look for similar evidences of his leadings in our own lives. In the world today, support groups are available to assist individuals who are afflicted with problems. In many cases participants are heard to say, “If only there had been somebody there to help me before—when I needed support—I wouldn’t have this difficulty now.” We can appreciate that attempt by the world of mankind to deal with the enormous problems faced by individuals who have difficulty in coping with life.
For the brotherhood, we would suggest that the cultivation of regular testimony meetings in the ecclesia, when carefully structured, allows for expression through prayer, hymns, scripture readings and other approaches and is really the equivalent of a spiritual support group which has the added advantage of having the spirit of a sound mind, the holy spirit, to lead us in divinely approved directions.
Unquestionably, there needs to be a balance in terms of the meetings and studies that we have in our ecclesias, and of course we need personal study as well. If we are involved in helping to bear one another’s burdens, in addition to a regularly scheduled testimony service we should find special sweetness in our doctrinal studies because the Holy Spirit will enable us to derive great peace and joy as we rehearse the truths found in the Harvest Message.
The Brotherhood as a Support
With the experiences that the brotherhood faces at this point and time, when we come across those who need our help, if we (especially at the ecclesia level) are nurturing, sensitive, sympathetic and concerned with the welfare of all the body, then we may be instrumental in helping to afford some relief and there will be less of a likelihood that those individuals who are sorely afflicted will seek comfort from sources apart from the ecclesia.
We would note that this matter of sympathy as it relates to bearing one another’s burdens was exemplified in the life of the Master during his sojourn here.
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.”—Hebrews 4:15
During his ministry, Jesus demonstrated this not only by his teachings but also by his example in helping many of the poor, groaning creation. Being in the Truth is not merely our understanding of the doctrines, doing great works, or rejoicing in the hope of our future personal exaltation in glory with our beloved Head.
Since the Church is being prepared to bless mankind and help effect the ministry of reconciliation, the experiences that we have now with our brethren and with mankind should assist in making us tenderhearted and compassionate, so that we will have attained the necessary qualifications to be wise and qualified merciful priests in God’s kingdom.
“Dear brethren and sisters, let us more and more be worthy of the name Barnabas —Comforter of the brethren. Let us have the Holy Spirit abounding in us more and more, for this is the Lord’s good pleasure; that with it dwelling in us richly we may be all sons and daughters of comfort in Zion, representatives of our Father, and channels of the Holy Spirit, as well as of the Truth.” (Daily Heavenly Manna, August 10.)