155) When Others Are a Burden

     In the classic Life Together Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes how we should live together as Christians.  In the following selections, he describes how to deal with those difficulties we all face in our relationships: bearing with people who are a burden to us, forgiving those who have wronged us, and praying for others, especially for those we dislike.  His instructions for the Christian community, though difficult, are clearly grounded in the Bible.

     Third, we speak of the service involved in bearing with others.  “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).  Thus the law of Christ is a law of forbearance.  Forbearance means enduring and suffering.  The other person can be a burden to the Christian, in fact for the Christian most of all.  The other person never becomes a burden at all for the pagans.  They simply stay clear of every burden any other person may create for them.  However, Christians must bear the burden of one another.  Only as a burden is the other really a brother or sister and not just an object to be controlled.


     I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me.  When I pray for others, the face that may have been intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner.  That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others.  As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by prayer.


     Offering intercessory prayer means nothing other than Christians bringing one another into the presence of God, seeing each other under the cross of Jesus as poor human beings and sinners in need of grace.  Then, everything about other people that repels me falls away.  Then I see them in all their need, hardship, and distress.  Their need and their sin become so heavy and oppressive to me that I feel as if they were my own, and I can do nothing else but bid:  Lord, you yourself, you alone, deal with them according to your firmness and your goodness.


Be kind, be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.  –Scottish Proverb


Galatians 6:2  —  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:9-10  —  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Matthew 5:43-47  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?”


Dear God, I have been wronged by my neighbor.  I did not deserve this of him.  But I must remember and consider how I stand with you.  Before you, I find a long account against me which convinces me that I have sinned a thousand times more against you, than my neighbor has done to me. Therefore, I must do as you say, by sincerely praying, “O Lord, forgive, and I will also forgive.”  Amen.     –Martin Luther