Bear one another’s burdens…Galatians 6:2 (ESV)
Then Jesus called the Twelve to him and began to send them out two by two…” Luke 10:1
I laugh when people emphatically declare their single-handed accomplishments. I remember a young man who was so thrilled that he’d built a thriving enterprise from scratch and all alone. He forgot the people who believed in him when he was nothing and who financially and psychologically supported him. He forgot the successful people who mentored him. He even forgot his own family who, in their limited way, were there for him.
When I was in primary school, my Sunday school teacher saw potential in me and asked me to be her assistant. She turned the class over to me to teach once a month. She convinced me that I could do it – and I did. In youth group, our adult sponsors assured me that I was a leader, and they invested time and themselves in developing my skills. A college professor encouraged me to keep studying and taking advantage of scholarships. Her belief fueled my confidence and a career that would inform many aspects of my calling. My husband, a first generation American, trudged along through school, working as many jobs as he could while studying, and caught the attention of one of his teachers. “Young man,” she admonished, “you can be something some day.” And because of that and other affirmations, Peter went on to noteworthy service as a state judge.
So, are there really any self-made people? Moses needed Aaron by his side; Ruth and Naomi were brilliant companions; Jonathan encouraged David during some of his darkest hours; and Paul always ministered with a friend. Even Jesus himself traveled, lived, and worked in community with disciples who were themselves learning.
Pride and delusion tell us we don’t need anyone. But think of all the advantages we have in community. If one falls down, the other can help him up (Ecc. 4:10); we can encourage each other (Heb. 3:13); we become wise by being with wise people (Prov.13:20); there is safety with an abundance of counselors (Prov. 11:14); and we sharpen each other in fellowship (Prov. 27:17). The challenges of community are real, but the benefits are eternal.
Jesus’ first appearance to his disciples after his resurrection was in a closed room where they had gathered for fear of the Jewish leaders. Everybody but Thomas was there. Could it be that Thomas was one of those people who had to process his grief alone? Did he have the need to suffer in isolation? By focusing on himself and attempting to resolve his doubts alone, he missed seeing Jesus. When he rejoined the group, his doubts were dissolved, and he recognized Jesus as his Lord and his God.
John Donne was spot on when he said, “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”
Father, you said it wasn’t good for a man to be alone, and you instructed us to bear one another’s burdens. Cause us to love one another, to walk together in peace and harmony, and to live and learn together. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.