Chapter 9: Strangers and Prisoners
“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same (Matthew 5:47, NAS)?”
“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body…(Hebrews 13:1-3).”
Do you remember the question, “who is my neighbor?” Well, here it is again. Not only are we cautioned to love our brothers (which can often feel virtually impossible), but here we are encouraged to do the same with those outside our brethren. Are we who are extending love to those within the body only doing so at the least possible level, or are we pushing ourselves to go beyond our borders and love those without? We never know to whom we are showing kindness or hostility; we don’t know who may be an angel among us.
And more than that, what if they’re not an angel? What if they’re just some random person who needs kindness, a comforting word, or God’s love expressed to them? We are not to choose whether or not we love our brothers or love our neighbors or strangers or prisoners; we are to love all people at all times, even when admonishing someone.
I love the line in Hebrews 13: “…since you yourselves also are in the body.” Prisoners are a passion of mine because I recognize the undisputed fact I too could be behind physical bars if I had remained married to my first ex-husband. Someone was going to get hurt somewhere along the line! I could have been pushed to do something untoward given the demonic nature in which he operated. Any number of things and circumstances could have led me down the wrong path and caused me to do something prison-worthy. No one knows of what we are capable until a situation arises.
Furthermore, there are people not behind physical bars but behind internal bars, chains, and other barriers. “Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them” states Hebrews 13. We are in the body therefore we could do something stupid at any moment should the flesh get the better of us. In this, we must all be compassionate toward those who most folks deem unsavory. We would be wise to remember how our flesh acted prior to surrendering to Christ. I am painfully aware I must surrender the nature of my flesh daily. Just because I live in a fleshly shell doesn’t mean I need to be driven by it, though it genuinely wants to take the wheel of my life.
Those who are externally or internally imprisoned are so because, somewhere along the line, the flesh got the better of them. Neither you nor I are exempt. Have compassion. Have mercy. Lend prayer. We never know what stranger or prisoner may be an angel in disguise, but don’t be motivated to kindness because of that as if to think, “I don’t want to mess with an angel!” Perceive everyone as someone in need of the same love Christ extended to us in our time of need.
Chapter Sixteen: Bearing One Another’s Weaknesses
This is a subject near to my heart as it has been grossly misinterpreted by most. Have you ever had a loved one in dire need of assistance and, since you want to ‘bear their burdens’ according to our Lord’s instruction, you get dragged into their chaos and feel more burdened than they? It happens all the time. We think we’re doing right by people when we engage in their problems and we wear ourselves out trying to help when all we do is feel as bad or worse and no one gets actual aid.
We must keep the ‘bear one another’s burdens’ in proper perspective with the fullness of the Word. To be sure, the only way to accomplish this daunting task too big for mere mortals is to first be a person who casts their own cares upon the shoulders of Christ. We must learn to, and I quote, “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
If we cannot care for ourselves in such a manner allowing ourselves to be burden-free through Christ, how can we consider attempting to help someone outside ourselves? We will only further exacerbate our own problems and theirs. It goes back to the question, “Why worry?” If I as a minister, wife and mom cannot cease worry about my own, what good would I be to another? How could I rightly say to one in need, “Trust God” if I’m not doing it myself? I can teach others to pray with power and authority, faith and praise because I first practice it myself with my family. I first must surrender before I can call someone else to surrender.
When I do this, I can indeed help bear another’s burdens because I can, with ease, lead them to the Christ who bears my burdens. Then, we are both free of burdens. Burden-bearing is about no one but Christ alone, the one bearing the entirety of the burden. All roads lead to Christ and Christ is the only road to God the Father, the quintessential burden-bearer.
In summation, the first step in bearing another person’s burdens is to make sure you, first and foremost, have cast your cares upon Christ. Then, and only then, will you be equipped with the power and presence of Holy Spirit so as to lead them to the One who can lighten their heavy load.
My personal self-evaluation: If my yoke is hard and my burden is heavy, I have not cast my cares upon Him and a recalibration is required. With all I’ve endured with mine and Sophia’s health, when things became too hard and heavy, I consult the King and resubmit my troubles to the trouble-checker. At that, I immediately experience the relief of such heaviness and go on about my day. I deal with today as tomorrow has enough troubles of its own and will care for itself.
“Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30, NAS).”
“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves (Romans 15:1, NAS).”
“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions (Romans 14:1, NAS).”
“Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble (Hebrews 12:12, NAS).”
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:12-17).