a personal and biblical reflection, based on Galatians 6.2-5
How do we honor our individual personhood and that of all people?
How do we caringly lend assistance to others without usurping, undermining their responsibility for themselves? How do we carefully accept assistance without relinquishing responsibility for ourselves?
Though I have no ready or easy answers to these questions, I think that a key to the beginning of a faithful response rests in wrestling with a key phrase in the Apostle Paul’s counsel: “Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
However one views the Jesus-story of the Bible and the Christ-event of theology – whether as a literary expression and intellectual articulation of the highest human aspirations, Jesus being a mythic archetype of self-sacrificial nobility that, when lived out, neutralizes our inherently selfish passions that corrode our relationships or as a historically-rooted account and summation of 2000 years of thinking about Jesus of Nazareth, whose life is a supreme incarnation of what it is to be divinely human and humanly divine or something else or nothing – both the Bible and theology point to a paradox at the heart of human nature. We can “fulfill the law of Christ,” that is, become fully human as we were intended to be from creation’s dawn (or, expressed theologically, by God the creator’s divine design), only as we give ourselves to others.
In Jesus’ words, “Those who seek to save life will lose it and those who lose life will save it.” As I have come to understand this teaching, selfishness (I confess, one of my most prevailing sins), by which I seek to have and to hold for myself, makes my life a small package of dwarfed personality and diminished possibility. Selflessness, by which I seek to give myself away for the sake of others, makes for a larger life. One characterized by my heightened awareness of the fullness of the human condition through sharing in the joys and sorrows of others and deepened acceptance of myself through embracing the joys and sorrows of my life.
“Bear one another’s burdens…all must carry their own loads.” Paul calls us to remain open to the opportunities to help others when they find themselves caught in “the fell clutch of circumstance.” We are bidden to discern what we have to offer and to decide what we will offer – whether some great or small concrete act of care arising out of our experience and expertise or a compassionate word or the comfort of our presence. We, bearing the burdens of others, offer our gifts. Then we, letting others carry their own loads, respect their responses to our offerings as they choose, accepting or declining with a sense of thanks or ingratitude, with a spirit of trust or suspicion, now or later.
 Luke 9.24.
 From William Ernest Henley’s Invictus.