Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pollard: the Travesty Continues

The outrageous treatment of Jonathan Pollard continues.  Now, after serving over 25 years of a wholly unjustified life sentence (which was given in violation of his plea agreement), the federal government has refused to even grant Pollard "compassionate leave" to attend the funeral of his father, accompanied by prison officials.  Such leave is routinely granted to other inmates, unless there are aggravating conditions that mitigate against it, but other inmates are not high-profile Israeli Jews.  This case has at least as much anti-Semitism as the Dreyfuss Affair, and is a continuing scandal to every administration, Republican or Democrat, that tolerates it.  Our original post on the subject is found here .

From The Jerusalem Post :

Obama: Where's your humanity?

Elan Adler, Originally Published June 22, 2011  

If for no other reason, the American Jewish community should re-think it's support for the re-election of President Barak Obama. After repeated calls for clemency for ailing prisoner Jonathan Pollard after 25 years, there has been zero response from Mr. Obama. How can one explain such a callous disregard for a sick, and perhaps dying, man incarcerated for a quarter of a century?

Beginning right before the New Year of January 1, 2011, there was a frantic assembly of personal appeals to the President of the United States, to use his moral and legal authority to release Jonathan from the Butner Federal Correction Complex in North Carolina. This kind of release and pardon before the New Year is often granted to those who have suffered in jail more than is necessary, and is seen as a humanitarian gesture by the President.

Right before the New Year, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made Israel's first official request for Jonathan's release. I have to admit, I was caught off guard, thinking that Israel had consistently appealed for Jonathan's release over the past quarter of a decade. Still, the timing seemed to be right, and there were high hopes that the American President would respond favorably and have Jonathan leave his prison cell a free man. Netanyahu's appeal was joined by others, including notable members of Congress and past US Secretaries of State and Defense, all of whom did not choose to minimize the severity of Jonathan's crime, but rather focused on the injustice of Jonathan's life sentence. Why, they wanted to know, did similar offenders receive sentences of 5 or 10 years while Jonathan was in for life? Israel's Chief Rabbis sat with Jonathan's wife and heard her tearful and emotional plea for them to do all they could to free her fragile and ailing husband. They too joined the chorus, requesting freedom for Jonathan, reducing his life sentence to time served, reminding the President that there is no purpose to be served in Jonathan's continuing imprisonment, especially considering his ill health.


This effort to release Jonathan is not new. When I served Congregaton Agudath Sholom in Stamford, Connecticut, I ran a group for singles who were aged 50 and above. One Friday night a month, for several years, 50 adults would gather for a delicious Shabbat meal, and hear a speaker on a Jewish topic. If memory serves me correctly, the only speaker that came more than once- who the group demanded to hear again- was Carol Pollard, Jonathan's supportive sister, who graciously came at her own expense to get us on board with appealing for her brother's release. That, my friends, was 20 years ago. During that time, the National Council of Young Israel's Executive Vice President Rabbi Pesach Lerner, as well as Riverdale activist Rabbi Avi Weiss, have distinguished themselves, among others, in their continuous visitations of Jonathan in prison, and their relentless pursuit of Jonathan's freedom. So much of that momentum seemed to peak right before the New Year, when so many high level appeals and personal letters were given to President Obama, practically begging for his humanitarian response. All was met with a chilling silence.

Even Lawrence Korb, assistant Secretary of Defense at the time of Pollard's indictment, made a statement that deserved some kind of reverb when he put himself out on a limb: he said that based on his first-hand knowledge he can say with confidence that the severity of Pollard's sentence is a result of an almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies in our foreign policy on the part of his boss at the time, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. In simple words, Korb suspects it was anti-Semitism that slapped Jonathan with an indefensible sentence. Has Obama responded to that? What about Israeli President Shimon Peres' personal letter handed to Obama during their recent meeting in the Oval Office?

 
Any word from the White House? Chilling, apathetic silence.

Most recently, the White House phone banks were jammed with requests to have Jonathan released for a brief period, in order to visit his terminally ill father Morris, deep in his 90's and hardly guaranteed any tomorrows. These and other numerous calls went unheeded, and once Morris died, those who feel for Jonathan had one more request, that the President grant compassionate leave to Jonathan so that he may attend his father's funeral.

The Jewish community and others who have fought the good fight did not feel this was too much to ask for, this momentary release. And truly, when you think of the character and persona that Obama projected during his campaign, that of a compassionate listener and kind soul who will lift us and make us proud again to be Americans, he has, in this instance, been a huge and unforgivable disappointment. Even if one disagrees that Obama has thrown Israel under a bus, it's hard to escape the fact that with the stroke of a pen, Jonathan could have been on a bus, paying his final respects to his father, in a way he couldn't do when his mother died in 2001, as his request to attend his mother's funeral was also denied.

How inhumane, Mr. Obama, how insensitive and dismissive, if not downright cruel, to prevent a son from visiting his ailing father, and further holding him back from the funeral. And all of this, in silence, chilling, incomprehensible silence.

We may disagree on matters pertaining to Israel, but it's impossible to debate on simple menchlichkeit, and that's what releasing Jonathan, even for a day or two, is all about.

As an Israeli resident who feels Obama is not a friend of Israel, no matter how many times he says he is- and why does he have to work so hard to convince us?- I will not be voting in the next American election. But I do hope that whenever Obama speaks to Jewish groups to gain their support for re-election, they will, at the very least, remind him of this seemingly premeditated trespass on not only one human life, but two. I pray they will remind him of his accountability regarding his shameful silence in the face of global calls for compassion on behalf of Jonathan Pollard. Some President.

The author, Rabbi Elan Adler, is a rabbi, commentator, writer and media personality who made alyiah in 2010 with his family. He lives in Maale Adumim, Israel.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Affliction, Part III

Your best friend calls you on the phone, and tells you that he's just been diagnosed with inoperable, terminal cancer .... and he's worried about his wife and young children.  And although he doesn't mention it, you know, and he knows,  that he'll die in excruciating pain, and it won't be quick.

Your only son, a bright, witty, popular teenager, has just become a Christian, in his senior year of high school.  The answer to so many prayers! And he's zealous as only a young Christian can be.  He enrolls in a Christian college, with hopes of going to the mission field.  But a few weeks before classes begin, he's riding his bicycle down the highway, and he's struck and killed by a drunk driver.

Your sister and her husband have been trying for years to have a baby: and it's finally happened.  A beautiful baby girl, perfect from her head to her toes, the joy and pride of the entire extended family.  And a few months later, on Christmas Eve, the child is found dead in her crib, a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.


None of these scenarios are imaginary; I'm personally acquainted with the people involved.  And you're personally acquainted with people who have experienced equally heartbreaking afflictions and tragedies.  The question is, when you meet with these people, what do you say to them?  What possible comfort can you give them?

This is the third in our series on the subject of affliction.  (The other two posts can be found here and here.) In our first post, we observed that God Himself takes full responsibility, in His word,  for all human affliction.  In the second post, we discussed one of the purposes of affliction: to get our attention, to draw our thoughts and hearts toward God and Heaven.  Now, we come to another reason that God permits affliction, particularly in the lives of His children.

When someone we know, or love, goes through a trial or a tragedy, our impulse is always to offer some sort of comfort.  But it's not easy, is it?  It's one thing to send a sympathy card, or even to let someone cry on our shoulder, literally or figuratively.  But it's a far different thing to actually help someone, to come alongside them and give them real, meaningful comfort. It frustrates us, because we know that we have so little to offer.

But in some cases, we can, by the grace of God, really help: because we've been there ourselves.

We think of Job, and about the three men who he ultimately called "miserable comforters" after they'd lectured him and offered their theories  (Job 16:2).  But let's give them a little bit of credit: when they first arrived on the scene, they didn't rebuke or browbeat Job.  They were absolutely silent, simply sitting with him, weeping with him, for seven days and seven nights (Job 2:11-13).  None of them had ever lost all their children, and their eathly fortunes, on a single day; they didn't even try to "empathize."  But they were sympathetic, until human nature took over, and they started gabbing.


But if you've been there....


Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God
(2 Cor. 1:3-4).






One of the reasons God allows us to suffer, very simply, is so that we can comfort others who are suffering the same thing.  I couldn't have comforted the couple who lost the baby to SIDS, because I'd never been in that position.  (I met them years after it happened.)  But I've been through a few things, and when I meet someone in those situations, I can talk knowledgably and from the heart - - - and they'll listen.

A divorce is an agonizing thing, especially for a Christian.  One feels so isolated, so alone, feels like such a failure ... until another Christian, who has also been through it, comes alongside.  The suicide of a loved one is close to intolerable ... until someone who has suffered the same tragedy reaches out.  A serious birth defect is a hard thing to bear, and may cause someone to curse God ... until a joyous Christian, with the same problem, offers them a new perspective, a new hope.

That's one reason that God allows Christians to suffer.  For the sake of others, both saved and unsaved. He comforts us .... and enables us to pass that comfort along to others.





Does this seem like a hard or unjust way of equipping us to help other people?  Why can't God just give us the empathy and wisdom directly, without all the tears and scars and sadness?

Because the servant is not greater than his Master. In His great discourse on the Holy Spirit, Jesus described Him as "the Comforter" (John 16:7). That's the Spirit of Jesus Christ, indwelling every believer.  But Jesus didn't return to Heaven, and send the Comforter, until He had borne His own sufferings, and ours; until He had drunk the cup to the dregs.  I say it reverently: that's when the Carpenter was replaced, on this earth, by the Comforter.


He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted
(Isa 53:3-4).





Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

If affliction and suffering were Jesus' lot, they must surely be ours, if we are to be His people: because as he is, so are we in this world (1 John 4:17).


If God is going to use us in the lives of others, He's going to put us through some things we'd prefer to avoid.  But think of Jesus, and ask yourself: would it be better to be unused, and unprofitable to our Master?


We may thank God that He never sends or allows unnecessary affliction.  There's always a reason .... or many reasons.


What a God we serve!






Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Christmas in July

Has it ever bothered you that the greatest miracle in the history of this troubled planet, the incarnation of God Almighty, is relegated to a single day of the year, or utterly obscured by a commercial orgy once a year?  It certainly bothers me.  The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth deserves more than that.  I thought it would be appropriate (although it's always appropriate) to reflect on His first advent in the off-season, too.  No stockings or trees or frenzied bursts of spending money: just a very simple song, by the greatest Gospel singer of recent times, Mahalia Jackson.  I hope you enjoy it - - - and think about it.

video

Friday, July 22, 2011

No School of Prayer?

I've been looking through the websites for various "Christian colleges" and seminaries, and I've found something very depressing.

It's nothing new; I've been a Christian for many years, and this unhappy state of affairs has always existed. But I keep hoping it will change .... a forlorn hope, I'm afraid.

You can go to the most popular, well-respected, highly esteemed Christian schools and seminaries in the United States (
Luke 16:15), and you can find all kinds of graduate degree programs. For example: at Pensacola Christian College (or "Pensacola Theological Seminary"), you can get a master's degree in nursing, or business administration, or church music, or (God help us) "Bible exposition." At Southern Baptist Seminary, you can get a master's degree in "Biblical counseling," youth ministry, or even "intercultural leadership," a spiritual discipline on which the Bible is curiously silent. At Tennessee Temple, you can get advanced degrees in everything from military chaplaincy to something called "Institutional Effectiveness." (I'm not making this up.) At Fuller Seminary in California (I'm not just picking on Baptists or Southerners), you can get advanced degrees in urban youth ministry, many kinds of psychology, or (hold on, this is rough) "global Christian worship." And that's just a representative sampling of all the "Christian institutes of higher learning."


 

I have not found a single Christian college or university where one can get a degree in prayer. In fact, I can't even find one that has a Department of Prayer. They all have Departments of Christian Education and Christian Music and Christian Counselling ... but not prayer.


Why is this?


Years ago, when I felt God's call to the ministry, I looked at dozens of school catalogs. And I don't even remember seeing any courses on prayer offered. Prayer 101? Supplication 205? Entreating 400? No, the courses don't exist.




I know what the faculty members would say. They'd say "Well, of course prayer is important, but it's a personal thing. You can't teach it in school." But soul-winning is personal, too, and most seminaries have departments of evangelism. Counselling is certainly personal; and entire graduate programs in pastoral counselling exist. So why not prayer?

Could it be that there are simply no rules, laws, techniques, or tactics of prayer? (Granted , prayer is so basic and "natural" for a Christian that even a child can do it; but it's a discipline, too.) That can't be the case: the Bible is full of prayers and praying people and instructions on prayer, some of them very specific. So why not teach it in "Christian schools?" I know you can't teach people to be spiritual, but if you can teach them the Biblical patterns of evangelism, why not the Biblical lessons on prayer?


Haven't you noticed some of the questions that come up? On the one hand, the Bible tells us to cast our cares on the Lord, to leave our burdens with Him; on the other hand, it says to pray persistently, without ceasing, to keep knocking and asking and seeking. Why don't the schools teach classes on this stuff? They turn out pastors and evangelists by the score, every spring, and those men are supposed to be able to teach prayer to their congregations; but how can they, when they've never been taught themselves?

It's simple: prayer isn't taken seriously by Christian schools, and it's not taken seriously in many churches. It is the most neglected discipline of the Christian life. Even the Christians who have very little time for the Bible spend more time reading it than they do in prayer. Prayer is hard work. Prayer takes time. It takes a commitment. And it's not emphasized by "Christian leaders."


Andrew Murray wrote a book called With Christ in the School of Prayer. That's a great title, and we know what he means; but, in fact, there are no schools of prayer, because Christian educators don't value prayer, and the pastors they train don't learn to value it - - - except through the experience of life. And they'd get that even without going to a "Christian college."


Of course, it's easy to criticize and complain about "Christian colleges:" they're pretty easy targets. But it's a sad thing, isn't it?


So I guess we'll have to ask God to help us learn it ourselves, from His word, and through sharing our experiences with one another.


But for God's sake, sisters and brothers, let's not neglect it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Words of Fire, Deeds of Blood

From time to time, I find myself thinking, as an American,  of how far this nation has come, and the things that have been accomplished - - - for good, and for ill.  As we gradually become a genuine police state, I find the "ancient" history of our continent to be ironic.  America has been a great nation, and still is in many respects, for which I thank God.  But we need to be conscious of who we are, where we're going ... and where we've been.  The words in the following video, beautifully rendered by Robbie Robertson and the Red Road Ensemble, are from Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce nation.


video



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Psalm 55:22: a comparative study

One of the many problems of having so many English translations of the Bible (over 250 since 1901) is that, in thousands of cases, they simply don't say the same thing.  In examining the modern translations, I could have offered some truly hair-raising examples of this, where doctrines have been twisted and contradictions have been artificially created.  For the sake of my readers who are of a delicate disposition, however, I've chosen a very simple verse, one that has been a comfort and an ironclad promise to every Christian.

Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved (Psalm 55:22, King James Bible).  

Modern Bible translators make two claims for their versions: to make the "archaic" King James more clear and understandable; and/or to make the version more "accurate," meaning more consistent with "the oldest and best manuscripts."  The latter claim merits a post of its own, at the very least; but in this post, we'll concentrate on the issue of "clarity."

First of all, is there anyone reading this post who finds the above reading, printed in red, to be difficult or unclear?  Granted, it includes the dreaded word "thee," which modern version people don't like; but virtually every English-speaking person on earth knows what it means.  In the context, the word "suffer" is clear: it simply means "allow," which is how it's translated in many versions.  But if it's clear in context, why change it?  Or why not add a marginal note saying that "suffer = allow?"  Why actually change the text itself?

 Anyway, they do.  Of all the most popular versions now available, only the "New King James Version," which is not really a new edition of the text at all, renders the verse more or less the same as the King James - - - although the NKJV has other problems.  But let's see how the other popular versions handle the verse.

The New American Standard version is considered by most evangelical and fundamental scholars to be the most "accurate" Bible available.  It reads, "Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be shaken." The NASV adds a helpful footnote saying that "be shaken" means "totter." The New International Version reads virtually the same way, but without the footnote.  Well, what's wrong with that?



It's not true, that's what.  Christians, who have received the Lord Jesus Christ by faith according to John 1:12, and who are "righteous" in Him, are very often "shaken." The Christian life is full of trials, and the death of a loved one, or a diagnosis of cancer, shakes us.  We'd be liars if we claimed otherwise.  We often "totter," beset by discouragement or tottering on the brink of sin.   But we're not moved, as the King James says: moved out of our salvation in Christ, and maybe not even moved out of our fellowship with Him.  Changing "moved" to "shaken" seems a small thing, but in addition to being untrue, it destroys the cross-reference to 1 Corinthians 15:58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.  That's an important and helpful cross-reference.  The verse in Corinthians commands us not to be moved; the verse in Psalms tells us how to achieve that.  But you'll only find it in the King James.

 

 A very popular version, the New Living Translation, says: "Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall."  He won't?  Are you sure?  Proverbs 24:16 says,  For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.  Talk about a "contradiction!"

An equally popular translation, The Message, reads: "Pile your troubles on God's shoulders - - - he'll carry your load, he'll help you out. He'll never let good people topple into ruin."

Huh?  "Good people?"  Who would that be? Jesus Christ said, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God (Mark 10:18, Matthew 19:17).  Of course, here we have an example of a translation contradicting itself, because The Message renders Mark 10:18 "Why are you calling me good?  No one is good, only God."  The Bible may not contain any genuine contradictions, but The Message certainly does.

And what about Job?  Was he a "good person?" According to Ezekiel 14:14, Job was one of the three most righteous men in the Old Testament.  Did he "topple into ruin?"  He certainly did; the book of Job describes his devastation in heartbreaking detail.  But The Message says that "good people" don't have problems like that. 

But the real howler comes from the Good News Translation (alias Good News for Modern Man, alias Today's English Version).  Here we find the verse translated as: "Leave your troubles with the Lord, and he will defend you; he never lets honest people be defeated."

(I will pause momentarily, so that students of law, business, or politics - - - or anyone over the age of sixteen - - - can contain their laughter.)

Really, now.  Does anyone really believe that honest people are never defeated?  Most people believe that, in the cases of O. J. Simpson and Casey Anthony, the "honest people" were the prosecutors.  They were defeated.  And you've seen it in your own experience, whether in the workplace or the schoolyard or a thousand other places.  This translation is, in addition to being textual nonsense, simply ludicrous on its face.

Now, don't get mad at me, and accuse me of saying more than I'm saying.  Nearly 42 years ago, I was saved partly as a result of reading Good News for Modern Man. I'm not saying that these versions are worthless or that they don't contain some of God's truth.  I'm saying that they're not legitimate "Bibles."  You can be saved, or learn about Christian morality, from reading them - - - or from reading a book by a wise Christian author, or hearing a sermon.  But that doesn't make those things "Bibles."

I realize, of course, that many people will dismiss this post without really considering it; and they'll dismiss it with four little words: "Well, he's KJV Only."  They'll label me, and mischaracterize my position, instead of looking at the evidence.  But I really can't help that.

For the record, I am not "King James Only."  I have most of these translations on my bookshelves, as well as several foreign language versions, and I often consult them.  I don't recommend them, but I use them.

I use a lot of versions.  But I believe only one: God's uniquely preserved word, the King James Bible, which is His final propositional revelation to man in the English language. 





   
 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Ulysses"

It's been awhile since I posted a poem here, so I thought the time was right to add one of the very finest in the English language: "Ulysses," by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  In this fine reading, which is accompanied by the text, Ulysses (also known as Odysseus in Greek mythology), the great hero of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, has returned home from his exploits, and is growing old.  He reflects on his situation, and his inability to live a life without adventure and heroism, no matter how old he becomes. In my very humble opinion, the final seventeen lines of the poem are some of the most exquisite words outside the Bible itself.  I regret that I don't know the reader's name, but I hope you enjoy it.

  video

 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Studies in Islam: Rape Jewish women!

In this astonishing video, a  practicing attorney and devoted female follower of the Religion of Peace recommends the sexual harassment and even rape of Jewish women in the Mideast.  You simply can't make this stuff up; nothing is too low for a true follower of Muhammad.  I guess the issue of rape is one area where Islam really does mean "submission," as they claim. 


video 



Friday, July 1, 2011

Contradictions in the Bible: bearing burdens

We've all heard it a thousand times or more .... and some of us have said it, in  moments of shallowness and smugness and skepticism:  "The Bible is full of contradictions!"


This is one of the most popular objections to the Christian faith, and is repeated as mindlessly as it is frequently. I've been a believer for over 40 years, and I sincerely doubt that 10% of the people who have spewed this cliché to me could find the books of 1 Chronicles or Hebrews without an index.  But they say it anyway, because, when attempting to escape God's authority, any excuse will do.


In any case, I've finally decided to go on the offensive with this stuff. Instead of listening to the same old complaints about Goliath and chariots and  Jehoiachin's age, which can be so easily explained if one is willing to do some homework, I'm going to talk about a few "contradictions" the cynics don't usually mention, and have probably never thought about.

Contradiction #1: bearing burdens

Here are two verses which, on the surface, seem to be contradictory. The cynics don't care about this one, but it's puzzled many a sincere Christian:

Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), versus

 For every man shall bear his own burden (Galatians 6:5).

Yikes!  When taken out of context, don't those two verses, from a single chapter of a single epistle, seem to be a contradiction?  They did to me, as a young Christian.  If I had a problem, whether it was a broken engagement or a lost job, was I supposed to burden my brothers and sisters in Christ with it, like a crybaby?  Or was I supposed to "suck it up," like a man, and just keep it to myself?  Depending on which of those verses I read, I could say that either approach was the "godly" thing to do.

So, do the verses contradict?  Only if you read them superficially, or  quote them out of context - - - which, as a young Christian, was very easy for me to do!  But this is an easy one to resolve: because of the context.  This isn't James "disagreeing" with Paul, or Jesus "disagreeing" with Moses.  These are two verses from what would, in a modern setting, probably be a single paragraph of a single letter.  Leaving aside the fact of divine inspiration, Paul was a careful writer: he would have had to have been drunk to contradict himself so blatantly.

Without getting into a long expository sermon, let's do something just for novelty's sake.  Instead of just quoting verses out of context, let's look at the context:

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden (Gal. 6:1-5).

The passage applies, of course, to any burden, any of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that we all endure. A broken heart, after a divorce; a bankruptcy; a cancer diagnosis; maybe a worn-out transmission.  (There is one burden that it most emphatically does not involve, but we'll get to that.)  But in the context, starting with verse one, it's talking about dealing with a brother or sister who's become carnal (1 Corinthians 3:1), and has been "overtaken" by some specific fault.  And a "fault" isn't necessarily a sin: it can be a character or personality defect, or a worldly way of thinking, or a short temper, or laziness.  (That's how the word is used in James 5:16.  The Bible never encourages us to confess our sins to any person: that's a Roman Catholic idea, taken from Roman Catholic Greek manuscripts.  We're to know our own faults, our weak points, and confess them to our brethren.  "Pray for me, brother, I'm having problems with lust."  That's a far cry from "Forgive me, 'Father,' for I slept with the wrong woman last night.")  Here in Galatians, Paul starts out talking about dealing with weaker, less spiritual brethren: and then he starts talking about bearing one another's burdens.  If I have a brother or sister who's carnally minded or spiritually confused, I'm not to jump down their throat: I'm supposed to help them deal with that problem.  Maybe through prayer; maybe through personal accountability arrangements; maybe just through lending a sympathetic ear.  That's bearing one another's burdens.

There's a time for rebuke, when sin or false doctrine is deliberate and willful.  But this isn't it.  This is our work-addicted brother, our sister battling gluttony, our overworked (and therefore ineffective) pastor.  They don't need rebuke; they need a burden-bearer.  And when we do, when we're "overtaken," they should be there for us. 


So, does verse one simply limit the "burden bearing" to helping out weaker Christians?  No, not at all: but that's the context.  If you have a financial burden that I can help you with, and you're in great shape spiritually, I should help you.  If I need a roof over my head, and you can provide it, you should, whether I'm "overtaken in a fault" or not. We should fix that brother's  busted transmission, if God has given us that aptitude; a woman should give her sister in Christ a break by taking the kids off her hands sometimes.  But the context is weak and strong Christians. Us fine, spiritual types shouldn't look down on our weaker brethren: that's what Gal. 6:3 is all about.

So, what's the deal about "bearing our own burdens?"  Well, we're supposed to do that.  That's what life, especially the Christian life, is all about: I don't shrug off my responsibilities on you, just because I'm lazy or irresponsible or spiritually immature.   Job's friends tried, not very profitably, to help him; but ultimately, Job, like all of us, had to bear his load alone, before God.  You can make me smile or laugh when my heart is breaking, but it's still my heart.  Jeremiah was quite blunt about it: Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it (Jer. 10:19).

Notice that Gal. 6:1 is a command; Gal. 6:5 is simply a statement of fact.  We should help each other with these burdens; but ultimately, as the old saying goes, "every tub must stand on its own bottom."

It's not a contradiction at all: just relating a Christian's responsibilities (and opportunities) to the sad realities of life in this world.  It all fits together.

We'll look at other "contradictions" in subsequent posts.  But two thoughts remain:  First, that one burden I mentioned that we can't bear for another.  That's the sin burden. I can't bear the burden of your sins; in fact, I can't even bear the burden of my own.  God had to leave Heaven and take on a body of flesh to bear my sins and yours.  Only Jesus can bear that burden: and we will praise Him eternally that He did it!

As for "bearing our own burdens," we may be alone, like Job or Jeremiah, but we know what to do with our broken hearts and missed opportunities and personal crises: we give them to the same One Who handled our sin burden.  We don't "tough it out."  

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God (Philippians 4:6).

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (1 Peter 5:7).

 And once I've done that - - - once I've given all my burdens to Jesus, Who loves me, I'll be in a better position to help you with yours!

Contradictions?  Are you kidding?  Biblical Christianity is the only thing in this sad world that makes any sense at all!