Bear One Another’s Burdens

A sermon by Michael Pahl on November 17, 2019, called “Bear One Another’s Burdens.” This is the fifth in a five-part series called “One Another.”

Here is a written excerpt:

It began with washing some feet. But it led to dying on a cross.

Washing someone else’s feet—serving them in love—is not easy. It requires us to humble ourselves before them. It requires us to—to put it frankly—get off our duff and do the work, doing the work that no one else is willing to do.

But while serving others in love requires some humility and initiative, it still might seem pretty innocuous. No one gets executed by the state for loving people, do they?

Well, yes, in fact, they do. Jesus is Exhibit A for this. But history is filled with people who were persecuted, even executed, simply for seeking to live a life of love in the way of Jesus, simply for calling other Christians to live a life of love in the way of Jesus.

And here’s why: Jesus’ way of servant love is radical. It’s subversive. And this makes it offensive. This makes it threatening.

Jesus’ way of servant love means lifting up the poor as blessed by God. It means healing the sick freely and caring for the dying with dignity. It means liberating the politically oppressed, centering the socially marginalized, and giving them a seat of honour at our table. It means ceasing all violence against neighbours and strangers and enemies—even convicted criminals.

In other words, Jesus’ way of servant love means giving up our privilege to stand in solidarity with the underprivileged. It means giving up our power so that the powerless can be empowered. And this kind of love is always a threat to those with privilege and power.

And so Jesus himself, after washing his disciples’ feet, walked the road to the cross. He walked the road to the cross in solidarity with all those who have ever been condemned as sinners. He walked the road to the cross in solidarity with all those who have ever been victims of violence. He walked the road to the cross in solidarity with all those who have ever been cast out and trampled upon by the powers that be.

This is what crucifixion meant in the ancient world, and this is what the cross meant for Jesus.

With this we are getting at what Paul means in Galatians 6:2 when he says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ.” He’s thinking of the story of Jesus. He’s thinking of Jesus teaching love of God by loving one another. He’s thinking of Jesus welcoming children and washing feet. He’s thinking of Jesus walking to the cross in solidarity with sinners, in solidarity with all oppressed peoples everywhere.

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