My wife and I attended the funeral of a (long-retired) colleague on Thursday. Not only was he a colleague, but he was the father of another colleague, whom I count a dear friend. Walking into the worship space for the service was a bit like going into a Synod meeting, where I saw a throng of fellow pastors, many of whom I had not seen in years; some were contemporaries of the deceased, others were friends of the family, or fellow presbyters from days of yore. But they all came out to say good-bye to a friend.
Both of his sons spoke warmly of their dad, each in his own way from his own perspective. But what they shared had much in common: their dad was a man who loved God and expressed that love in service to others and in a life of prayer.
What struck me most, though, as I watched the family members interact with those who came to support them, was the truth of Paul’s words to the churches of Galatia: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6.2, NIV). Some people think funerals are morbid, but here’s the truth: a well-planned and well-crafted funeral to which friends are invited will help the bereft family along in its grieving process. Put more simply, a burden shared is a burden halved, as someone once said.
Paul’s principle is true for more than just grieving families at funerals, though. Anytime we take the opportunity to listen to another person unload his or her cares, we fulfill the law of Christ. When we assist someone who is having difficulty making ends meet, we fulfill the law of Christ. When we take time to look at church life from the perspective of a person who doesn’t yet have a personal relationship with Jesus, we fulfill the law of Christ.
Rick Warren’s first words in The Purpose-Driven Life are, “It’s not about you.” How true that is! My colleague, whose passing we gathered to mourn, lived a life that wasn’t about him. You and I can live lives that are not about us as we carry each other’s burdens, and fulfill the law of Christ.
Each of us knows someone who carries a heavy burden. How can we help that person today?