“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NASB).
Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer is the story of a white girl growing up in South Africa during Apartheid. Rosa Burger’s parents are arrested for their anti-Apartheid activities, leaving their young daughter in the care of less sympathetic “Christian” relatives. Her aunt’s biggest concern when Rosa attended church is that the girl have an appropriate hat. The church community fails to connect with Rosa.
Gordimer presents a church striving to look good on the outside, but malicious on the inside. The church doesn’t care about those oppressed by institutional racism; it doesn’t care about little girls whose families injustice has destroyed. It cares about hats.
We might call Gordimer’s perspective skewed. We might add that no one wears hats to church anymore. ‘Casual’ is the welcoming word in today’s churches. But let’s give Gordimer an ear, just for a moment.
Many in our pews are like Rosa, confused, overwhelmed in the wake of shattered families. We aren’t wearing hats; we are wearing masks. Circumstances overwhelm us. Family problems, illness, conflicts with friends, neighbors, or coworkers disrupt our peace. Financial woes weigh us down. Anger, fear, worry, and doubt escort all of us at various times. We forget that one of God’s favorite tools for making us whole is each other.
When we cover up our wounds, our pain finds a new way to show itself. Fear sometimes manifests itself as anger. We take our anger out on others and harm our relationships. But our wounds cause other problems too. On our own, we find various coping mechanisms that only drive our hurt deeper.
Some escape into drugs or alcohol or even food. Some substitute an addiction to porn for authentic relationships. Some seek solace in the arms of someone who is only seeking his or her own solace, not commitment. Pain builds upon pain, wound upon wound.
The primary goal becomes to hide that pain from others. Satan tells us we are the only ones in the world–or at our church–who deals with our problem, with our kind of temptation. No one else could ever understand. The mask tightens and pinches. Isolation is the enemy of fellowship and ministry. It is also the enemy of healing and wholeness.
Healing and wholeness are exactly what God means for us to have within the Church. He intends us to be a community, a set of communities around the world, people who lift each other up, who wash each other’s feet, who listen to the hurt of the heart. When we carry each other’s burdens, we encourage each other, we challenge each other to move beyond the hurts to a healthy place. That fulfills the law of Christ. Healed people helping others heal.
Burden bearing Christians say, “Here is the road where I walk. Tell me where you walk. Let’s walk together.”
That’s what two friends did for me. They let me see inside their hurts and foibles. Then I could show them mine. I was the bitter and angry person wearing a crooked, pinching mask, and they helped me take it off.
We stopped wearing hats to church a couple of decades ago. A welcoming Church goes beyond casual. It goes to safe and transparent. It makes a place where healing begins.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”