“Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others
as better than yourselves.”
-Philippians 2: 4
“Find your tribe. Love them hard.” This is a picture hanging in my living room. I love my tribe, and I am there for them if they need me. And they are there for me, as well. My tribe has come through for me many times over the years.
Most recently, while dealing with car trouble, I called on my tribe for help. It was a Sunday afternoon on a hot summer day. The time had arrived to return home from a family visit. I carried my weekend bag and a few other items to the car, unlocked the door and stuck the key in. Turning the key in the ignition produced nothing.
After a good hour of trying to jumpstart the car with the help of my family, I gave in to the fact that it was not going to start. Did I mention it was a hot day? So not only did the car not start, I was a crabby, sweaty mess.
It was important for me to get home to prepare for work the next day, so the problem-solving began. There were two cars of mine in town because a family member had borrowed one. I left the car that wouldn’t start and drove the one that would. By the time I got on the road, I was at my wit’s end.
This is where my tribe stepped up to the occasion. We made plans to transport the family members in need of a car. The “dead” car was towed halfway home to a friend’s dealership. The repairs were made, and then more of my tribe tag teamed to help me get back to the car to bring it home.
It’s amazing how people in our lives come alongside us and bear our burdens with us. It was great to get their help, because there were some expensive options that I was able to avoid because I had my support system in place. For some who helped, schedules had to be altered and sacrifices made.
The letter to the Philippians is one of my go-to books in the Bible. The Apostle Paul is encouraging the followers of Christ to continue to love and support one another, and to do so by calling on the Lord for help.
“Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.” (Philippians 2: 1-5, CEB)
Put simply, Paul is encouraging the followers of Christ to bear one another's burdens. To think of and put others first. To live a life of humility. To consider the collective good, and not just what’s good for the individual.
It is humbling to be on the receiving end of kindness, support and encouragement. It’s even more humbling when friends and family say yes to me when I ask for help. They showed me the power of mature and selfless love in action.
In my morning quiet time with God, I read about a group of European theologians who were translating the New Testament into a native tribal language, Kare. It’s the language of a small equatorial tribe in Africa.
As the scholars were looking at the word Advocate or Holy Spirit for translation, theologians discovered that the Kare language did not have a word for Advocate. Unsure of what to do, they continued their translation, hoping for some insight.
The words came to them when they witnessed the activities of the tribe. When the tribe goes on a journey, each person carries a pack of items on their head; that is, all but one. This one person intentionally carries nothing so that if one of the people falls to the ground in exhaustion, the one without a pack will fall down next to the person, provide support, and then take on the burden of carrying the pack on their head.
This person has a name in Kare that translates into English as, “One who falls down beside us.” This became the term used for the Holy Spirit because this is essentially what the Spirit does for us.
The Holy Spirit or Advocate falls down beside us and joins us in our trials. The Advocate is the one who intercedes for us, sending people into our lives to help us carry our burdens. The people who are sent love us deeply, and desire the best for us.
I love this image of the Holy Spirit. That hot day when my car wouldn’t start, I literally sat down in the grass, defeated. Tears filled my eyes. And do you know what happened? The Holy Spirit fell down beside me in the form of my sister. Together with others, we were able to sort out the next steps for my car troubles.
As followers of Christ living in our communities, and in the world, we are called to work together with one heart and one purpose. This one purpose is to have love for one another. A love that hopes that others are well cared for. A commitment and desire for the best for another person.
Followers of Christ encourage others with humility and love, expecting nothing in return. God calls us to bear one another’s burdens when facing hardship. We can do this among our families, in our neighborhoods, work places, and in friend groups.
As followers of Christ we are called to welcome all people into our lives. We can do this by recognizing that each person is unique, beloved and faces their own challenges. Each person endures weaknesses of some kind, and struggles in some arenas of life. It is important to recognize what others are dealing with, and to be gentle and humble of spirit as we interact with others.
The trouble is, society values the strongest ones. The most charismatic. Values those who are successful. The ones who make a lot of money. Have nice things. These are all surface characteristics that often provide a facade for what is inside the person.
It’s hard to see inner beauty when we only look at the outside. Reality TV does this really well for us. It raises up to be admired: the smartest… the fastest… the most cunning.
God calls us to see one another through different eyes. To value all people regardless of color of skin, whom they love, how fast or slow they are, how much money they make, whom they voted for, and any other things that divide people into their own camps of thought and action.
For God, what society might view as the weakest link, must be valued above all else. Each person regardless of how society sees them, is deserving of our best efforts and our kindest spirit.
God’s way is the way of a humility of spirit. Of allowing for differences. Making modifications for folks when things seem to be out of reach. Of allowing each person to sing their own song. To dance their own dance.
To walk on God’s path is to be the one who falls down beside another and joins them where they are. To be one who helps them carry their burden.
Take a moment and think of the people you interact with…. At home? …. At work?... In your neighborhood? Which ones need an extra measure of your love, kindness and humility? Who needs a little more help with the things in their life? Who needs to be invited in, even if they are different?
Take the time to write down a name or two. What is one tangible thing you can do this week to help them bear their burdens? Offer this up to the Creator. Name in your heart who you need to be a burden bearer for.
Perhaps you're the one in need….the one hoping there is someone willing to be the “One who falls down beside us.” The one who needs extra prayers and encouragement? If it is you, offer up prayers that you are in need of someone to come alongside you. And then when someone does, let them help you bear your burdens.
Not one of us is so strong that we don’t need someone to bear our burdens for just a little bit. Be careful though, not to put too much on someone. They are still your burdens, and won’t be taken away from you. They can get a little lighter though. And, as you help carry the burdens of others, continue to care for yourself and set healthy boundaries for the helping.
I am a helper. I carry the burden of others for a living, as a hospital chaplain. And, I have also been on the receiving end of needing a burden bearer when my husband died. When COVID loneliness set in.
God puts people in our lives to journey with us through the joys and the sorrows. Please, let them journey with you, and seek others with which to journey.
I want to believe that Your love for me means You will go before me on life’s path and clear the way. I hope that as You do, it will make it easier for me to navigate the roadblocks that get in the way. You provide me with daily opportunities to reach out in love in order to support another person. Guide my words and actions, that they may spark in me the desire to bear the burdens of others. in the days ahead guide and guard me. In Your Holy Name, Amen.
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