The Higher Way
Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Matthew 11: 30
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
The Higher Way
During the season of the pandemic, the belief that “we are in this together” has been brought home to us in new ways. We are reminded that, to a greater or lesser degree, our physical, emotional, and financial well-being is linked to the well-being of others.
Thus, most of us are carrying extra burdens these days. We worry over what we have lost and how we are going to recover it. Not just the measurable losses of income, savings, economic prosperity, etc., but the loss of a sense of normalcy. We worry that loved ones are safe. And, we are tempted to fear that the world is coming apart and will never be the same again.
And then we see where Paul tells us to “Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” To which, in all honesty, we are tempted to reply, “Really? Sorry, I have all I can handle with my own burdens right now.” Or, we are tempted to offer this response, “Sorry, I can’t bear the burdens of someone else when they are the problem. It is those other people that are the biggest source of my own burdens.”
Indeed, bearing one another’s burdens is a foundational principle of our faith. However, given our human nature, actually doing it can be challenging. Consistently bearing the burdens of others is the higher way of our spiritual path, and therefore it is often spoken about but not usually followed. It is graduate-course level Christianity, and in faith matters we allow ourselves, so much of the time, to try to get by with grade school practices.
You don’t have to look very far these days to see the anger and discord that is prevalent in our culture. Anger is everywhere, and it increasingly plays a part in what we believe and how we interact with them.
There is anger over those who won’t wear a mask and anger from those being made to wear a mask; anger over what our elected leaders are doing or not doing (especially the ‘other’ political party). There is anger over those who we think are trying to capitalize on the misfortune of others during this time. The list goes on.
Anger is real and should be acknowledged when it is the cry of the victim of injustice. Anger may not be as justified when it is only the cry of the fearful, but it is no less real.
So we can add one more challenge to our list right now. Bear the burdens of others, including those who can provoke us with how they conduct themselves. What it comes down to is our belief in God. For us, it’s more than seeing that we are all in this together, although that’s part of it. It’s more than seeing our common humanity, although that is also part of it. Ultimately, for us it is the essence of the faith life. The higher way is what Jesus calls us to follow if we are to understand the nature of God.
A friend of mine reminded me of this when she wrote me these words about our call to love our enemies. She wrote, “When you bring your burden to me, (“me” being God) that lifts it on to the Altar and into the light. In that light, the darkness flees. The Christ in you recognizes the Christ in another. The action of your asking me to show you how to love your enemies quite literally is what allows me to heal the world through you by changing your perspective and increasing your understanding.”
So the message is not a simple ‘give your burdens over to Jesus and they will go away.’ It is a deeper message of ‘Bear one another’s burdens, including the burden of anger, and you will become closer to the heart of God. It is the higher way. Nobody, particularly God, ever said it was going to be easy all the time.’
A hymn for today, “On Eagle’s Wings” offers a vision of the higher way when it says:
And God will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of God’s hand.
Help us, O God, to seek the higher way. In doing so help us to bear the burdens of others, as you bear our burdens. Lift us, we pray, and hold us in the palm of your hand. Amen.