“Bear ye one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2).  If you are anything like me you probably flinch when you read these words. Maybe  you too feel a sense of inadequacy. Also James challenges us when he says, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth  it profit?” (2:15–16). We may dismiss this, living as we do in affluent Western societies where there is little visible evidence of need and knowing that where there is, it is met by social welfare, part of  the “nanny state”. But needs can be physical and  spiritual and there are many that are in need of our  warmth, care and fellowship.

Get involved

Often we are reluctant to get involved in ecclesial  life because we are self-centred, which means our  lives revolve around what we are interested in and  want to do. Our world is governed by humanism,  which is devoid of Christ’s perspective. This appeals  to the flesh because it puts our own interests first.  If our Lord had been so motivated there would  be no way of salvation. He accepted his Father’s  commission and became a servant, one at the  disposal of another – he “made himself of no  reputation”, surrendering himself to God’s will. This  involved unreserved and unstinting service for those  in need; he healed all that sought the power that his  Father had vested in him. But their needs were not  only physical, for the here and now, but spiritual; so  he also taught and instructed his followers so that  they might be saved from mortality and live forever.  This was onerous and constant.

For those who are his disciples, who are to walk  in his steps, this is the example set before us, and this  is the mental disposition we need: “Let this mind  be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5).  We will not attain this if we show little interest in  ecclesial activities and fail to get personally involved.  And if we have children they will observe our  example, our priorities, and be influenced by them  and probably adopt them as it will be the only way  of life they know. If our life is not centred around  the interests of the ecclesia and our brethren and  sisters, if our focus is elsewhere, the chances are that  our children will not follow Christ.

Obstacles

Recognising that it is natural to be self-interested,  the Apostle Paul calls upon us to humble ourselves:  “in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better  than themselves. Look not every man on his own  things, but every man also on the things [interests]  of others” (Phil 2:3–4). It is a case of the Spirit  prevailing over the flesh: there will always be an  internal struggle until we are “changed” (1 Cor  15:52).

Another barrier to effective service of others is  shyness, a lack of confidence to go up and speak to  others. If this is so we must do our best to overcome  it – and we will find in most cases our fears have  been unfounded. Fellowship depends on interaction,  on getting to know and understand others. When  we do find out about the lot of others we may  discover some avenues where we can help.

In the new commandment given to us by our  Lord, he calls upon us to “love one another, as I  have loved you” (John 13:34). It was not simply  to love your neighbour as yourself, but “as I have  loved you”. The extent of this love was soon to be  demonstrated to them in him “laying down his life  for his friends” (John 15:13).

Hence the love that we must show to each other  is very wide ranging and comes at a cost. We need  to speak to our fellow servants, not to merely say,  “Good morning, Brother Bill”; and show interest  in their lives, families and needs. This done over  time will develop the warmth and fellowship Christ  defined as loving one another “as I have loved you”,  and open up ways in which we can serve our Lord.  And on this point let us remember that service to  Christ’s brethren equates in his mind to service to  him: he identifies with us and our brethren and  sisters (Matt 25:40,45).

Value in menial tasks

Sometimes it is expressed that the demands of  family life deprive one of opportunities for service  to Christ. Mothers may feel this particularly  with such chores as cleaning, washing clothes,  dishes, attending to children’s needs, all apparently  mundane, which absorb time and energy.

But there is another way of looking at this,  the correct way. Loving service rendered to family  in faith is acceptable service to Christ. It is the  Lord’s work. He would not have us neglect those  ministrations to family, because they make for  harmony and well-being, leading at length in the  mercy of God to belief and baptism. Think about  how all-embracing the words of the Apostle Paul are  when he says, “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory  of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Expanding the same thought  he said to the Colossians, “And whatsoever ye do in  word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,  giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (3:17).

So we all have different circumstances and  capabilities, just like the parts of the body. The  important thing is that we do our part to the glory of  God: “there are diversities of operations [‘activities’  rsv] but it is the same God which worketh all in  all” (1 Cor 12:6).

Danger in the visible

Christ’s servants need always to be thinking about  how they are thinking. Pride is a disguised demon  that can sometimes blind us to the fact that we  are actually serving self when we purport to serve  Christ. Our Lord made this starkly plain at the end  of his ‘Sermon on the Mount’. The attention of his  hearers would have been arrested by his final words  when he identified himself not only as lawgiver but  also the judge of who would enter the Kingdom,  “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall  enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth  the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt  7:21). The prescription for entry was simple, the  doing of his Father’s will, but alas many ‘would-be’  entrants would fail. He next unveils the protests of  the many denied entry, “Lord, Lord, have we not  prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast  out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful  works?” (v22).

There are two matters here that we should  heed. They were firmly of the belief – confident –  that all they did was “in thy [Christ’s] name”. In  reality the claim was false. There is another motive  which becomes evident when the nature of the  works done is analysed. They were all very public,  observable works, visible to the eyes of man, whose  approbation and applause was secretly courted. The  works were not done for Christ’s sake but for their  own sakes, and for that reason they are summarily  dismissed by the Judge, “I never knew you: depart  from me, ye that work iniquity” (v23). Dreadful  words, words none of us want to hear. The more  visible ecclesial roles could be driven by pride and  self aggrandisement.

On the other hand kindness and deeds done that  are not observed, where the left hand does not know  what the right hand does, are less susceptible to  wrong motive and the hypocrisy so often reprobated  by Jesus.

This contrast can also be seen in the parable of  the Sheep and the Goats, where the good deeds  done were humble, open to all to do; and more than  that, they were done to Christ’s little ones without  a sense of personal merit. The motive was pure and  an abundant entry into the Kingdom granted.

In conclusion

We live in the last perilous days. Opportunities for  service abound but the time is short. We need to  carefully analyse our lives and show our love for  Christ in ‘bearing one another’s burdens’. This is  what he did in a greater and more complete way  than we ever will (Isa 53:4). That is why it is called  “the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). Hearing and doing  “these sayings of mine”, the Lord said, would be like  building a house on a rock (Matt 7:24–25). In this  way we do the will of his Father which is in heaven  (v21), and will find an abundant entrance into his  eternal joy and Kingdom.