Learning to Carry Another Christian’s Cross
Do we love one another enough to want to be involved in what looks like a messy person’s life? Neo Yi Ling reflects on 'The Compelling Community' seminar held from 23-24 Aug 2019.
A seminar titled The Compelling Community: Bearing One Another’s Burdens was held across two days in GBC from 23-24 Aug 2019. Led by Pastor Hann from Evangel Bible-Presbyterian Church, a trained biblical counsellor, up to 140 people from 10 different churches showed up for it.
Pastor Hann led us through many passages of God’s word in the Bible to help us understand what practical love for a brother or sister in Christ looks like. “The compelling community” refers to the people within a church community who love one another with the love they have received from God.
“For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.” (2 Cor 5:14-15, HCSB)
Living for Jesus who died for us looks like being moved by His great love to live for others. This plays out in sincere concern and practical love for others around us who are hurting. Pastor Hann described the church as a “hospital of saved sinners”, where every saved sinner has a baggage of complex life problems, and all of us are called to help carry the crosses of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
God’s will for us in the Bible is to love one another (1 Jn 4:7-21), yet the truth is that sometimes we do not love one another enough to want to be involved in what looks like a messy person’s life. It was sobering when Pastor Hann pointed out that choosing to remain within one’s own comfort zone by not getting involved in another person’s struggles (when the situation arises) is actually against what God wants us to do.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:1-2)
The aim of helping a Christian brother or sister struggling with a problem is not to change behaviours but to change hearts. What I found helpful was a guiding framework introduced by Pastor Hann in reaching out to a suffering person: ‘Love --> Know --> Speak --> Do’. As typically efficient Singaporeans with hectic schedules, we often have the tendency of jumping straight to ‘Do’. Many times I have found myself hastily suggesting a solution before finding out more about the problem shared by a friend. Unfortunately this is sometimes borne out of a desire for the conversation to quickly end or not to get involved in the complexity of another person’s life when it feels like my plate is already full.
Pastor Hann helped us to see that coming up with an action plan for a friend who is struggling with a problem is a lot more effective and useful if we first spend time investigating more into what is happening. This is to get rid of presuppositions and assumptions and to identify what the real issues are. In the seminar, he screened a video example of a man who sought help from a pastor after his eldest daughter caught him watching pornography and whose marriage is now in jeopardy. After gently asking more questions, it was discovered that the man had a poor relationship with God and had become immune to how abhorrent his sexual sin was to God. It turned out that he was seeking help because he didn’t want his marriage to fail, and not because he saw a problem with his pornography habit. This crucial difference gave the pastor insight to speak relevant biblical truth into the man’s situation, before guiding useful action. How often do we probe deeper to better understand a problem when a suffering friend shares it with us?
Most importantly, the impetus that drives us to want to be involved in another person’s messy life should be the compelling love of Christ in us. Without loving our Christian brothers and sisters enough to want them to become more like Christ, our efforts to help may end up merely superficial and not be very meaningful to the person.
Walking alongside another person in his or her pain and suffering is something that we should be prepared to do so for the long haul. Pastor Hann used the illustration of a server (or waiter) as the posture we can adopt in pointing a person to God – by standing beside the person and showing him or her God’s word, allowing him or her to draw biblical conclusions on their own. He reminded us not to bind others’ consciences with legalism. Just like Jesus came to earth to understand suffering at our level, we too should not be talking down to struggling Christians as though we are on a higher pedestal.
“Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 Jn 2:10-11)
Much as we like to keep things neat and tidy and even confine difficult life problems within strict boundaries, it is often not the case in real lives with real problems. Human beings are undoubtedly troublesome, and it is a wonderful reflection of God’s great patience and love to send his precious Son to redeem our messy lives. It is my prayer that God will give us the love we need to truly care for one another, the endurance to be involved for a long time in the problematic lives of those around us, and to help one another to walk in the light (confessing sin) and not in the darkness (hiding sin).