Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bearing One Another's Burdens

Scripture: Matthew 5:38-42

I work in an auto part factory and, like the rest of the industry, we have suffered from low sales. For the last few months we have been on reduced hours with everybody pining for the 'good 'ol days' of plentiful hours and bigger paychecks. Then of course volume picked up recently and for the last month and a half we have been getting so much overtime there is no room to breathe (feast or famine?). Well with all this overtime, tension has been mounting at work. My shift is down to two regular workers on my line and we both have felt that the workload was somewhat unevenly distributed. Long story short; we were being forced to work a certain set of overtime hours while the other shifts were given much more freedom to choose their working hours. It came to a head with my friend and I arguing and fighting with our line supervisor.

My friend, Billy and I are both Christians and seeking to grow in Christ so this confrontation left us both feeling pretty bad. Not that we were wrong, in fact the supervisor saw the discrepancy after the confrontation and corrected the "injustice". But the feelings we had were still there. We talked about putting in written complaints that I was commissioned to write. As I wrote I felt deep conviction that this was not appropriate and was at a loss of what to do. I felt depressed, angry, frustrated and very "unspiritual".

The next morning I decided to "take it to the church". I sat down with my wife and children at lunch and began telling my problem and sharing my feelings of frustration. They all listened and I read some selected scriptures from Matthew 5, the sermon on the mount. This was before my boss relented though he never admitted his transgression, lying to my co-worker and I about what choices of working hours the other employees getting. Jesus said that we are not to resist an evil-doer and that if someone asks you to go one mile with them, go two. He was saying that we are to submit to our situation and if asked to do something, even if we are forced, we should do more. The Roman Government had a law that those conquered lands who were considered slaves of the empire could be asked by a Roman citizen to carry a burden for the distance of one mile and they could not refuse the request. Jesus was telling the faithful to go ahead and carry the burden another mile of their own free will. Once again the message was one of submission! Why is that so hard to learn and even harder to do?? Of course the kids were all over this one. Yeah dad, you need to do what your boss tells you even if you disagree and even if it seems unfair to you.

I decided to do just that and found out later that my friend Billy felt God telling him roughly the same thing. We met with our supervisor and explained that, while we felt that the situation was still wrong, it was not good for us spiritually to demand our own way. If he told us what our schedule would be, we would work it without complaint. It was then he admitted that the "situation" was wrong, though admitted no wrong-doing on his part, and placed us on roughly the same type of schedule as the rest of the department.

Yes, a happy ending. But the real victory was not in getting the equal and fair treatment we were looking for. The victory was what happened during and after my meeting with the Church. As I spoke and honestly shared my feelings I began to increasingly feel the weight, frustration, anger and stress lift off of my shoulders. I was LITERALLY sharing my burden with the Church, the Body of Christ, and they were LITERALLY helping me carry it! When we were done I felt completely free all negative thoughts and feelings and completely at peace with the situation. It gave me a new perspective on just what the Church is. I could not have done this in a traditional setting. I may have said I am having a problem at work the next Sunday and prayed around the altar or something, but to get to hash it out, right when I was hurting and needed help. To have the ability to share challenging scripture and get instant feedback, counsel and even rebuke from my own children who were speaking with the wisdom only God can give through his Holy Scriptures was simply AMAZING!

If there was ever any doubt about the authenticity of house church/simple church, and let me tell you I have been struggling with a lot of doubt lately, it was squashed right there. I saw my kids, who I have to rebuke, correct and teach many times in a day, rebuke, correct and teach me from God's word just like the Bible says we are supposed to do it! Around the table of communion sharing from our hearts, caring for one another and lifting one another up like the Church should do!