Bearing the Burden
The Bible tells us to receive the one who is weak in faith, but not to fight over opinions. We may differ on what we should eat or drink and have an opinion on what day we should esteem over another, but, for believers, what matters most is that none of us live for ourselves and none of us die to ourselves. Paul says, in Romans 14:8 “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. Christ is Lord of both the dead and the living.” So let’s not waste time judging one another in meat, drink or holy day, for we will all be judged by Christ, but rather let’s labor not to place a stumbling block or an occasion before our brothers and sisters.
As pastors, can the way we express our care toward others become a stumbling block to their faith? Cancer patients deal with a lot of emotions and have a great number of questions they may never express to their spouse or pastor. These questions come from the depths of their hearts and are only intended for God's ears, because they may feel we can’t relate, or they simply don’t wish to be a burden. Despite this, an overwhelming number of patients want more direct involvement from their pastors.
Our chaplains at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) can recall hundreds of stories regarding the perception of someone's care by pastors, parishioners, family and friends. We’ve heard stories full of joy, support and happiness, and, regrettably, some that have resulted in a broken spirit.
The reality is that love is an essential part of what cancer patients need if they're to endure. Caring for and loving patients enables them to see and feel the love of God. Romans 15:1 tell us that those that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Whether we differ over what we should eat or drink, or whether we are physically weak due to illness, the stronger individual should please his neighbor for his good to edification.
Edification, the building up of one’s faith is critical. We may not always have the material resources to meet the needs of others, but, as pastors, we should always be prepared to encourage and build up another no matter how difficult or grim the situation seems. It’s really not about our differences ... what's critical is our love and support for our brothers and sisters who are going through a difficult time. Galatians 6:2 tells us to “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
The lack of expressed care can be seen as a stumbling block or an occasion to those that are suffering. As pastors, we have to make an honest attempt to express our love and care toward those in need. We have to intentionally suffer with them, build them up and ensure them that we are in this together. In doing so, we are assured that we fulfill the law of Christ!
Pastor Aking W. Beverly, MDiv, MBA
Spiritual OUtreach Coordinator
CTCA in Philadelphia