Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Submission and Responsibility, Burden and Load

Asking for help with a problem =/= making someone else carry all of it

If you haven’t yet, I’d recommend reading this article. Today is a follow-on from that, and it’ll really help with understanding where I’m coming from today. The TL;DR version kind of reads like this, 1. In a married, Christian relationship, the wife willingly submits to her husband’s authority because he is marked as responsible for her by God. Submission is given willingly, not demanded. You can’t have authority over another without also accepting you’re responsible for them. 2. If you’re in a dating relationship, there is no obligation for married submission/authority to factor in, because you’re not married.

Which brings us to today, where I want to explore our very real need as Christian adults to be responsible for our own godliness, and how we serve and submit to each other. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” Galatians 6:1-6 Question: What’s the difference between a burden and a load? They can’t be interchangeable things, or Paul, who wrote the letter to the Galatians, would have used the same word. I’d posit that a burden is something that cannot be maintained alone, whereas a load is an everyday thing, and should be managed freehand. Both seem to relate to sin, and to living righteously. As brothers and sisters, we’re called to help our siblings out of sin, with compassion and caution, both for the one trapped and for the one helping. However, we’re also called to manage our own everyday things, without playing the comparison game of ‘hey, I can do this better than/worse than you’. A burden would be something that any one of us would need help getting out of. Porn addiction. Substance abuse. Mental illnesses that impair our ability to function at a normal level. Serious illness. Grieving the loss of a family member. A load would be something lesser, something which all of us would have to face on a day-to-day basis. The lingering gaze or stray sexual thought. Speeding. That one extra drink. Anger that flares at a moment’s notice. Jealousy for your neighbour’s newest achievement. Bitterness at missing out on something. Any load can become a burden, if left unchecked. But, while we live in mortal bodies, we have to manage the sinful nature and renew ourselves in Jesus’ forgiveness. So, there’s a call for us to serve each other in godliness, which is consistently called out in Paul’s other letters, but there is also the call to maintain our own godliness. Carry burdens, manage loads. Help your mate out if lantana has taken over his house, but really, you should be able to spray your own bindiis. What happens if we confuse the two, with the people in our everyday lives? If some part of person A’s brain decided that their growth group leader, or their pastor - someone appointed in some kind of ministry to them - was responsible for their godliness - how they lived, thought, acted, and whether that was about following Jesus, then it places an impossible burden on them. It makes them person A’s priest, a job reserved exclusively for Jesus (Hebrews 7-8). Certainly, pastoral staff and older/more mature Christians in the church are responsible for the younger, but this is in regards to encouragement, and learning scripture. We’re all starving people looking for bread. There’s just some of us that know where to look. The pastoring or mature brother or sister cannot be the source of nourishment, but listening to their advice can help. If person A was to make their parents, their friends, or their significant other responsible for their godliness, then it’s much the same problem, but the ramifications are different. Refusing to carry the load of their own sinful-yet-being-renewed nature means that person A is refusing to take responsibility for maintaining their own faith, and instead is chucking that on the shoulders of those around them. I don’t need to do the weeding if I ask you to do it for me. The person who eschews the responsibility of their own godliness will refuse to heed rebukes, demand particular treatment, and restrict the activities of those around them, in the name of burden-carrying, regardless of whether or not the problem in question is something they need to sort out themselves. So that’s how it can manifest, but is it so bad? To ask others to do things that help with your godliness? Well, it depends. For person A, they’re asking those around them to help them with their godliness. They’re asking for help in an ‘area of weakness’. That’s not a bad thing. “Hey, I hate bringing it up, but I’m currently working through an alcohol addiction. I’ve only been sober a couple months now. Please don’t offer me a drink next time we’re at a barbecue.” But if this is continually asked or demanded, with little to no effort on the part of the asking party to make things better, then it crushes those around them, by asking for service/submission without taking responsibility for the problem. “You know I have issues with anger. Why would you plan for our growth group to do [this thing I suck at]? I’m only gonna get mad.” Which should ring bells. Sort of. The Pharisees did something similar - demanding of the people, without taking responsibility. Jesus wasn’t keen on it. “Woe to you Pharisees! For you crush people with your demands, yet you never lift a finger to ease the burden.” Luke 11:46 Burdens are meant to be shared, not carried solo. To make another carry a burden single-handedly is to crush them. I’ve been there. Wishing that you didn’t have a physical body so that the problem of having a physical body would go away is not a good time. 0/10, would not recommend.

But is there a time and a place where it’s appropriate for us to ask for help in carrying this problem?

Well, Paul explicitly commands us to do so in Galatians. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ….” And we as brothers and sisters are called to serve our siblings and be aware of their stumbling blocks as best we can, doing our best to prevent them from faltering in their faith. “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.” Romans 14:13-15 When you ask for help with the burden, is the end goal godliness? For both parties? Are both of you putting effort in to easing the burden? Then yes. Absolutely.

Is there a time and a place where it’s not appropriate to ask another to help carry this problem?

Well, you probably need to ask yourself two questions. One, is this a burden or a load? Is it reasonable for you to manage it by yourself, with others holding you accountable on the occasion, or is it something you need immediate, interventional help with? Lantana or bindiis? Either way, you’ll still need to contribute the majority of the effort required to help get things back on track. Two, what are your expectations when you ask? How are you expecting them to help? And to what extent? For what period of time? If there are indefinites on those limiters, you probably need to run a couple more checks.

A thought in closing

I don’t like writing these sort of posts that don’t have some grasp-able application. I spent nearly two years writing and publishing blog posts for a living, and if they didn’t have an application, they didn’t get published. So let’s get real for a moment, and talk about a real-world application of the burden/load thing. How we expect our brothers and sisters to dress. Fam, it’s fair to ask your siblings to be wise in how they dress, for practical and godly reasons. It’s fair to expect that some things have a time and place sort of appropriateness. Downtown wear is not interchangeable with beachwear. Speaking as a woman who works in the clothing industry, I think it’s fair to understand that women’s clothes are rarely practical, and for some reason manufacturers regularly forget to account for bras and that shirts need to have substance. There’s a reason why I’ve considered giving up and just altering men’s clothes to fit. But it’s not fair to put that responsibility on your siblings when they’re trying their best. Stumbling blocks and weaker brothers aside, there comes a limit to how much we can expect others to account for our godliness, and how much we need to cultivate the spiritual fruit of self-control. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [earthly matters and limitations], but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.” Romans 14:17-18

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