A special thanks to Blue Shepard for allowing me to publish his weekly e-newsletter here on Vigilant Wolf. The Blue Shepard is a friend and past guest of Ever Vigilant podcast (episode 43). I personally look forward to his weekly thoughts on Christianity, Manhood, and Brotherhood and I believe you will feel the same.
By the title alone, you probably think I am about to delve into a scathing roast of lazy Christians taking credit for things which they did not do. I am not. The following is no original thought, but is directly inspired by 15th century book entitled, The Imitation of Christ, by author Thomas Kempis. I highly recommend this book for any contemplative Christian seeking a deeper approach to devotion and introspection than that afforded by the shallow devotionals so popular on the shelves of average book stores near you.
Required Reading: Galatians 6 (the whole chapter)
We accomplish what we very well wish to accomplish and that is that. What we do not do is seek out opportunities to accomplish things we do not wish to accomplish. If that is too much use of the word "accomplish" in a short span for your liking, I hope it does not prevent me from accomplishing the thing which I wish to accomplish: getting you to look within yourself.
When we hear the phrase "Bear one another's burdens" (and we do hear it very often in evangelical culture) it usually evokes the idea of the patience shown by a good teacher to diligent students; or the patience of a physician to his patient; or of a mother to her helpless child. One way we rarely think of this passage is in the light of showing grace to those whose presence or attitudes or behaviors brings about our own suffering (whether internally or externally). We make much ado about pity. When our emotions are stirred, we quickly advance to alleviate our own grief and feel good about ourselves Even our most pious philanthropy is usually driven by selfish motives and therefore is self-righteous. We donate enough, volunteer enough, share enough, and care enough to satisfy that gnawing parasite within us called compassion, always leaving it slightly satisfied but never fulfilled. It is a vicious cycle which leave the needs around us unmet and our true goals realized. Like all other cycles, this one is prone to reciprocation absent disruption.
Disruption comes when we examine the phrase in it's true context. In fact, St. Paul alludes to this in the entire chapter. The very first line in the chapter refers to when a person's wrongdoing - not their mere deficiency or weakness - is discovered. Verse one is a complete instructional statement. The rest of the chapter is an explanation. In verse two, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." The law of Christ explicitly refers to the forbearance of the sins of others, after the example of our Lord who bore our sins against him and suffered silently. This notion is radical in modern American society. It is, nonetheless, scriptural and correct.
Most often, when wronged, we see an opportunity seek justice, validate revenge, sow seeds of bitterness, or simply play the victim. The over-correction of insulting sentiments is a defense mechanism of the brain. Someone says or does something that wrongs us; they sin against us, and it causes emotions and feelings that hurt our self esteem. The brain is quick to pounce on the repairs. But instead of merely filling the hole, the mind continues shoveling that feel good dirt (chemicals such as adrenaline serotonin) to make sure we feel extra safe and protected from those threatening bad feelings. The resulting euphoria of anger and vindication is very addictive. Now you see why many people thrive off of drama and personal insult, and will take whatever you say and forge it into another bar for their self erected prison cells. It is a dangerous thing to yield to the passions of our own minds.
The jailbreak is found, not in personal justice and recompense, but in Christlike forbearance of the sins perpetrated against our very honor and dignity. The greatest atrocities perpetrated in the name of social justice are perpetrated within the cockles of our own depraved hearts. It is in the heart, the core of man's wicked issuances, that we must begin rightly forbearing. Like any addiction, the addiction to self gratification through self victimization is a matter of decisional intervention; situation by situation; craving by craving; relapse by relapse; hurtful deed by hurtful deed.
If, men of God, we are commanded to bear the grievances of strangers and friends in silence, humility, and contrition, rejoicing that we are permitted some small sip from the cup of him who humbled himself to death for the sake of our sins against him, how much more should we exercise longsiffering with the woman whom has been enjoined to us as we to Christ? Many men find it easier to love and pray for their enemies than their wives, insomuch as the annual traditions of St. Valentines day are more of a mockery of feigned eros, rather than a display of crucified and meek pragma, agape and philia, which are necessary for holy and wholesome eros. When you sin against your wife, you sin against your own flesh; and when you show grace to her, you reciprocate the grace which God has shown to your own many shortcommings.
Take not thought for yourself, your life, your social image, or your perception of social justice. It is a blessing to be reviled. Strive not to defend your honor from mere insults and slander, but provide things honest and open. Defend the rights and honor of others, and in doing so you will be honorable in the sight of God and Godly men. Love the brotherhood. Love your wives. Bear one another's burdens, even the very affliction of your soul. Every offense is but an opportunity to suffer for the glory of the Kingdom.
The Blue Shepard
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