The Burden-Bearing Body

 
 
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“Without hope, and without God in the world.”[1] That’s where we came from, children of wrath[2] fathered by the origin of all things deceiving and delusional.[3] We all have stories and mile-long lists of stupid, selfish, sinful things we’ve done—and do, while we desperately wait to be saved from these “bodies of death.”[4] We all have records and reference points to remind us that “such were some of [us],”[5] already testifying to the brilliant shelves of shining trophies gleaming with grace that’ll be on display for all eternity,[6] because the Voice that interrupted the genesis dark with “let there be light”[7] pulled a “but God” and broke into our own special darknesses and plucked us out of it before we knew what was going on.[8]

He intervened.

Because He is “rich in mercy” and has kindness to put on display for all the ages to come.[9]

This is usually the part where many of us begin to get twisted into all kinds of uncomfortable knots because grace is so good that it feels too good and we’re used to lying and getting lied to, so we never know what to do with this reckless wonder. We start shifting in our seats. 

One of the many beautiful things about God’s wildly unwarranted favor interrupting our lives and wrecking all our plans conceived so craftfully by our unrenewed minds is that in “transfer[ring] us from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Son of His love,”[10] He signs the deposit slip on our bodily transfer from the plaguing bondage of death (as in Paul’s Romans 7 lament)[11] to the broken, burden-bearing Body of Messiah (as in his conclusion to his treatise on the freedom Jesus paid so dearly to buy for us).[12]

“Come to Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and I will give you rest.”[13] “Take this, for it is My body, broken for you.”[14] “My burden is light.”[15] His burden is light.

This preaches so well, but what does it mean for you on a Wednesday afternoon?

It means you’re not alone.

“By this the world will know you belong to Me, by your love for one another.”[16] This isn’t just a cute idea, or even a command—Jesus, and the apostles, treat this brotherly bond of Body life not as an Ecclesiology course in your local seminary, but of justice. It is a very clear issue of the law with a very clear conscience of right and wrong. But wasn’t the law “fulfilled” and “summed up” in Jesus?[17] 

It is difficult to put constraints of time on the One who inhabits eternity.[18] “Fulfilled” is less of a timestamp on a crossed-off item on Heaven’s to-do list and more an embodiment of the Incarnate and crucified King. Therefore, we are to “owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”[19]

Body life in Christ means that we drink from the fire hydrant of His covenantal commitment to us, the kind of immersive blasts that make us shift in our seats (or fall over), and discover things about Him that enable us to serve the rest of the family when they shift in their seats. When they fall over. When life happens and they suffer. When they desperately need comfort. When they’re in chains. When hope seems foreign to them

We can intellectually assent to the love of Jesus till Kingdom come without actually believing it on a visceral gut-level, but just like the night a baby’s cry broke a certain silence in Bethlehem,[20] an incarnate witness of the Incarnate Christ is the measure required to speak truth in a world full of lies, and usher light into the darkened crevices of injustice and unbelief. We love each other, with the messy “show up” kind of love that endures all the worst things while it believes all the best things, bearing Holy Spirit fruit like patience when it’s maxed out, kindness in the face of crass behavior, prioritizing another[21] such that we sell our flat screens to help our buddies (or not buddies) keep their lights on—in fact, this is the kind of behavior that isn’t outlawed.[22] Or we hand over our coat when all they asked for (or demanded) was a shirt.[23] “For all the commandments are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”[24] And you don’t exploit the system, doing only what you would want others to do to you,[25] because “love does no wrong to a neighbor,” therefore fulfilling the law.[26] So we “put on Jesus, making no provision for the flesh,”[27] because all us sinners need a better Body. And in Jesus, we have one.

Before we all adopt a crippled Messianic complex and justify our toxic co-dependencies, we must remember the origin and sustenance of this burden-bearing ability: the “first and greatest commandment,” to love Jesus with the kind of all-in love that bankrupted Heaven and the young girl from Bethany.[28] We can’t do anything if we aren’t abiding in the Vine,[29] and we will quickly become destructive if we try.

Abide.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”[30] All the law is fulfilled in this one word.[31] All the law is fulfilled in this. What is the law of Christ—the “royal law”?[32]

Intercession. The cosmos is governed by the One who is—fulfills, embodies—the kind of all-in love that eats the bloody cost of intercession and empties its own pockets to buy its Gomers back off the prostitution block because dogs very often return to eat their own vomit and He comes back in after them (us).[33] And love doesn’t lose the plot. Doesn’t snap. Doesn’t read Gomer the riot act on the long walk home. Stays patient. Believes all things. Endures all things. Hopes all things.[34]

Love is expensive.

This is the Body that intervenes in each other’s lives, every part essential and every joint supplying movement.[35] This is the Body that pawns its valuables to make sure no one is in need and everybody’s bills are paid.[36] The Body that stays up late with emptied tissue boxes and tear-stained cheeks. The Body that clocks hours in hospital lobbies and doesn’t leave when grief arrives. The Body that calls and checks and confronts in love. This is the only Body that can “restore in a spirit of gentleness” those who are “caught in any transgression,”[37] pulling our sisters and brothers and selves and bodies back from the cliffsides of sin and indiscretion with the kind of costly Calvary love that “brings sinners” and prodigal sons home.[38]

“Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”[39] “Above all, have fervent love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.”[40] “Suppose one of you has a hundred [friends] and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.”[41]

We are the broken, battered, and healed Body of Messiah,[42] and His Body bears our burdens.

Joyfully.

 
 

 
 

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Stephanie Quick is a writer and producer serving with Frontier Alliance International in the Middle East. You can watch her films for free, read her books, and sign up to receive her ministry updates. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and browse the Covenant and Controversy film series and resource library.


 
 

[1] Ephesians 2:12
[2] Ephesians 2:2-3
[3] John 8:39-47
[4] Romans 7:24
[5] 1 Corinthians 6:11
[6] Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43
[7] Genesis 1:3
[8] Ephesians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6
[9] Ephesians 2:4,7
[10] Colossians 1:13
[11] Romans 7:21-25
[12] Galatians 5:1; 6:1-5
[13] See Matthew 11:28-29
[14] Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:24
[15] Matthew 11:30
[16] See John 13:35
[17] See Matthew 5:17-20
[18] Isaiah 57:15
[19] Romans 13:8, emphasis added
[20] See Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:1-19
[21] See 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 2:4
[22] Acts 2:42-27; Galatians 5:23b
[23] See Matthew 5:39-41
[24] Romans 13:9b
[25] See Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 6:27-31
[26] Romans 13:10
[27] See Romans 13:14
[28] See Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:36-40; John 12:1-8
[29] John 15:1-17, but I really recommend you meditate on the whole chapter
[30] Galatians 6:2
[31] Galatians 5:14
[32] James 2:8
[33] See Psalm 23:6; Proverbs 26:11; Hosea 3:1-3; 2 Peter 2:22; 1 John 4:8
[34] See 1 Corinthians 13:4-13
[35] Ephesians 4:4-16; 1 Corinthians 12:21-31
[36] See Acts 2:45
[37] Galatians 6:1
[38] Luke 15:11-32; James 5:19-20
[39] James 5:20
[40] Proverbs 10:12; Colossians 2:14; 1 Peter 4:8
[41] Luke 15:4-5
[42] Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:24