Summary: We build communitiy in the church by bearing one another’s burdens and serving one another.
“Community.” A sense of belonging, of being connected with people. Knowing that if you don’t show up, someone will notice, knowing that people care if you show up or not. Having things in common – common values, priorities, beliefs. Having people to share things with – joys and sorrows, work and play, pizza and coke, stories, burdens, victories and defeats.
“A community is a group of people who matter to you, and to whom you matter.” And a church should be a community, a group of people united to one another by their union to Christ and their love for one another.
1. We build community by carrying each other’s burdens
“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.” – Romans 15:1 (NASB)
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" – Galatians 5:13-14
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2
What should we do? Should we each take care of our own problems and expect others to do the same? Should we make sympathetic comments to our friends about the difficulties other people seem to be having? Should we just tell people who are in need to “buck up,” and trust in the Lord to help them? No. We are to bear one another’s weaknesses – not just put up with or tolerate each other’s weaknesses, but actively use our strengths to help them. We are to “serve one another in love.” We are to “carry each other’s burdens.” We are to live as those who are responsible to help one another.
Who are the weak? We all are, in different areas. As Will Rogers once said, “everyone is ignorant, just on different subjects”
What kind of burdens is Paul talking about?
Literally carrying burdens – helping people move.
Other kinds of physical help – Raking leaves. Cooking meals. Cleaning. Working on cars. Wiring. Plumbing. Stacking wood.
Financial burdens. This one is tricky, because people don’t like to talk about their finances, and we don’t want to be taken advantage of. But even here, people do have financial needs. We do have a benevolence fund for that purpose. But you don’t have to depend on that. If you are aware of a need for money or goods, and you are able to do so, why not just take care of it yourself?
This can also be allowing someone to have the use of something – car, snowblower, etc.
Burden of caring for someone. Children, elderly parents, disabled family members. Sometimes even our children are a bit of a burden.
Emotional and spiritual burdens. People who are grieving, people who have suffered loss, people who are depressed, or sad, or anxious, or worried; people experiencing difficult family situations. We can help one another bear these kinds of burdens by just being there, by expressing care and concern, by listening, by praying with them (and for them), by acknowledging their hurt instead of ignoring them (because we don’t want to make them uncomfortable, or don’t know what to say).
Note that this is not an exhaustive list. These are just some examples. The key is to be aware, to be looking for opportunities to serve one another, to have our eyes and ears open for signs of a need that we can help meet. Along these lines, I’d like to make another point about community.
2. We build community by using our gifts and abilities to serve one another
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. . . . Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:8-10
The point here is a simple one: we should serve one another according to our own gifts and abilities. We shouldn’t try to be someone else. Nor should we sit around and say, “since I can’t paint, or spackle, or plumb, or elect, like H_____ can, I’m just going to stay home and watch TV”. Or, “since I don’t have a big red truck like B____, there’s nothing I can do to serve anyone.” God has given each of us the means to be of service to others in the body. We need to use the gifts and abilities He has given us. If you can’t think of a single thing you can do to be of service to anyone else, First of all, you’re probably not trying very hard; and Second of all, just keep trying things until someone says, “thank you,” and then do that.