Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

A Fellowship of Burdens . . . Or a Fellowship of Joy?

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 24 March 2009

To ease another’s heartache
is to forget one’s own.

~ Abraham Lincoln

On Mondays I often wonder how many church members come to church so burdened by the cares of life that they aren’t even really present at worship.

The message of God’s Word does not penetrate their hearts, because it doesn’t make its way past their conscious hearing. They are simply consumed by their burdens. The burdens they carry grow out of finances, marriage, friendships, problems at work, a child who is rebellious or who is running from God, an ongoing health issue, a death in the family – the list of potential problems people face is endless.

I wonder if it's possible for a church – a body of believers – to reach a point where there are more burdened people than there are people willing to bear the burdens? Some churches have become nothing more than a fellowship of burdens!

We've made a verb of fellowship so that we can now "fellowship" over coffee! . . . when the koinonia is nothing more than a burden-comparison-session.
What happened to the Joy of fellowship?

After all -- depending on whom you listen to -- the whole world is a financial, relational, moral and political disaster! Everyone is burdened by something or someone!!

In the New Testament, the word "fellowship" (Greek koinonia) is a very strong word that reminds us that we SHARE together in God's grace -- NOT our common burdens!
The New Testament Church understood Joy.

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
~ Galatians 6:2

The word “burden” in Galatians 6:2 comes from the Greek word βάρος (baros). It refers to a weight that is heavy or crushing. Spiritually speaking, a "burden" is anything that threatens to crush our Joy!

In terms of perceivable burdens in a church body, we do tend to think of "burdens" as sickness, unemployment, loss of a loved-on, loneliness, rejection, etc. And we see the people who bear these burdens as victims -- which isn't necessarily wrong. If we are full of Christ we will most definitely be about the business of bearing these burdens.

Throughout the New Testament we are given instructions on how to conduct ourselves among fellow-believers. The Christian family isn't about criticizing or condemning, but about encouraging and restoring one another. . .
. . . and there isn't a counselor or mental-health professional
anywhere who would disagree that encouraging and
helping to restore others takes our mind off
of ourselves and our own problems.

To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.
~ Abraham Lincoln

There is, however, a greater heartache -- a far more overwhelming and crushing burden -- that too many Christians overlook. Immediately before telling the Galatians to "bear one another's burdens" in Galatians 6:2, Paul describes this greater burden and how to help a person bear it:

"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness."
~ Galatians 6:1

A person who is sinning needs help! The Bible tells us that those who are spiritual should "restore him." The sad part is that way too many Christians wrongly label this Biblical mandate as "judging."

They say, "That's none of my business. I don't want to be burdened by that.
It's not my problem. I'm not going to judge that person."

Sorry. That position is just not Biblical.

Ultimately, Christ has already taken on the burden of sin. We can not carry this burden for someone else. HOWEVER, as Christians, it is our responsibility to admonish and warn each other about attitudes, habits, actions, etc. which are wrong and then point each other to Christ. The Bible is clear on this! . . .
. . . and what greater Joy than to point someone to Christ?
In doing so, aren't we also taking the focus
off of ourselves and our own problems

Problems that may not have as great an eternal consequence??
If you've ever led someone to Christ, you understand that . . .

. . . To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.
~ Abraham Lincoln

On Mondays do you sometimes feel overwhelmed thinking about the "burdens" of those who surround you in church?

Are they burdened by the economy?
Are they burdened by a broken relationship?
Are they burdened by physical illness?

Or are they burdened by sin?
A burden easily disguised.
A burden with eternal consequence.

Whatever their particular burden, it is our responsibility as Christians to show genuine care -- restoring them to a strong trust in God's all-sufficient grace. Our fellowship (koinonia) with each other is based on our common koinonia with Jesus Christ. (I John 1:6-7)

. . . remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said:
"It is more blessed to give than to receive."

~ Acts 20:35

~Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
© 2009 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife

This installment of InOtherWords is hosted by Susan on her blog, Forever His.


Denise said...

Such a wonderful post sweetie.

Susan said...


Thanks so much for joining us today Esthermay, (I was hoping you would!).

I look forward to all your posts.

I started to use that scripture in Galatians, and at the last minute went a different direction. I'm glad I did!

You covered this so well.

I think Paul's example of fellowship was best expressed when he said,

...But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. Phil. 2:17

Have a blessed day!

Heather of S-A-M said...

I gotta tell ya... your an incredible writer. The way you tangle words is annointed no doubt! Everytime i come over to read i'm blessed and humored.

Sweet Blessings,
Heather of S-A-M

Laurie Ann said...

Esthermay, you nailed this one. I am so with you on it. It's funny how much class time is taken up by prayer requests and how little by true fellowship. Of course the burdens should be borne but the joy should be there, too! Burden-comparing sessions are a big thing among Christians, and burden bearing sessions is what a friend and I are learning. Mostly we bear through prayer and giving uninterrupted time to talk. I might talk over break about a situation, she might talk over lunch. Neither of us interrupts the other with our own burdens. We pray, we counsel, we share. We bear.

Fantastic post all the way around.

Karen said...

For years I was one of those coming to church with a burden to big to bear. I found comfort in the church, the strength to endure another week. Its now my turn to be that comfort to the next one walking in with a burden that they may leave with a blessing from God. Thanks for today's wonderful post.

LauraLee Shaw said...

A Texas-sized Amen to His Words through you, dear one. So much to chew on here.

Debbie said...

Wow; your words are so true! In our churches, we're so afraid sometimes not to offend and judge others. But there are times when we should be speaking the truth in love. Accountability is so important for each one of us. If my prayer concerns are actually a result of an area of sin in my life, I need to first confess that and turn from it.

Betsy Markman said...

Oh bless you, this is so wonderful!

How much of our lack of encouragement in the church comes from the fact that so few walk closely enough to the Lord to be encouraged by Him?

Barbara said...

"Fellowship of burdens: "burden-comparison-session" OH how true. Rich truth here. Where's the joy? Yes greatest burden is sin and greatest joy is leading someone out of it. Thank you. and thank you for making things printable. My Bible Study ladies always appreceiate when I share your blog
God Bless!

MiPa said...

Amen and amen. Thank you Estermay.

Michelle Bentham said...

A deep well who blesses every life she touches... I hear that about you! :o) Thanks for such a wealth of insight and truth. You are an exhorter. Love you.

Patricia said...

Thank you for sharing on this quote today. I think so much depends on what type of church we are in or Christians you are with. Many churches do not share personal burdens. People just come with pasted on smiles to show how good of a "Christian" they are. There needs to be a balance. Sharing our burdens, rejoicing in the Lord, and exhorting one another. This is my first time on your blog. I look forward to reading more.

kalopoieo said...

You are absolutely right about Christians refusing the Biblical mandate of Galatians 6:1. In context, the "burden" is our state of depravity before God. Even taking a simple thing like lonliness and calling it a burden needs to be evaluated in the light of our state before God. WHY is someone lonely? Have they found true joy in their salvation? If yes - there should be no loneliness and therefore no burden to bear. In a sense, there is no burden that is not a burden of sin. And there is no cure but a greater understanding of true salvation.
Bearing one another's burdens by God's standard is nothing more than restoring people or bringing people to a greater level of saving faith.
Wonderful and rich post.

lori said...

Ahhhhhh Esthermay....Always LOTS to think of over here!
It's almost sad to think that as a BODY of CHRIST that we are forgetting the burdens of our brothers and sisters...
"I wonder if it's possible for a church – a body of believers – to reach a point where there are more burdened people than there are people willing to bear the burdens?"

hmmmm....you know we have just begun attending a new church that is committed to reaching out to those among us and in the community mission field...to ease the burdens of those we sit next to...it's simple acts really...

You're on to something here girl...you always are!

NOW hey...I'm a restless, move the furniture kind of gal...some might say a bit OCD...that explains the NEW look...check back next week and it will likely be NEW again....it's the "freebird" in me!LOL!! living vicariously through my blog...since I'm really a stay at home, homeschooling momma!!LOL!

Your comments are great! I always look forward to an Esthermay!:)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing . . . love how you viewed it for "MONDAY'S". How many people do we leaving behind on Sunday, suffering so badly on Monday? Thank you for joining in and sharing.


You are such an incredible and talented writer. Your blog ministers to me each time I read your posts.


DeeDee said...

wonderful post - I too am a Pastor's wife...
We had a meeting last night and talked about the need to share one another's burdens...
(I have three give-aways at my blog for the UBP... if you are interested.)
Sweet Blessings and I will be back!


Yes - a lot to ponder in this post. It comes down to the self-centered, self-serving heart of a person. Do we spend our time unloading all of our burdens on others - or are we letting go of our selfish lives and picking up the burdens that others are unloading - teaching them to walk by faith - not by sight.

So many people have burdens that are heavier than necessary - just because they have not yet learned to walk in the truth of their faith. Someone needs to walk along side them - to teach them - sometimes step-by-step until they get it. That someone is you - and me! Will we? I pray the answer is an overwhelming 'yes, with JOY!'

Looking UPward and Choosing JOY,
[In Flight]

LauraLee Shaw said...

Esthermay, on a side note, I sure would love to know how you got the blogger blogroll feature to work INSIDE the post area on your blogroll page. I've tried and tried. I don't want it on my sidebar, but I'm going nuts without it!

Can you tutor me on it?

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