Reading in Luke a dialogue between Jesus and some people opposing him, I see two very interesting truths about the way that the Savior responds. In the first, I see that Jesus had no room for the snowflake and safe-space mentality of our culture. I also see, in a second point, a glorious call from the Savior for us to be more gracious than we often are.
Luke 11:45-46 – 45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
In verse 45, a group tells Jesus that his words are hurting their feelings. They feel like he might possibly be saying that they have been or have done wrong. So they put up their hands and try to make Jesus back off so they do not feel further insult.
Jesus, in verse 46, presses on. The Savior was not giving them a safe space to sit in their sin without the conflict of being challenged by the word of God. Jesus did not pretend that these men who claimed the right to expound the law of God could hide from accountability. Jesus was not into providing a safe space for those who claim to know the word of God but who refused to handle it properly.
Now, none of us should use this truth to be extra insulting to others. We are never called to meanness. We are not supposed to revel in making others look bad. But we are certainly not to allow people who claim to have the truth to oppose the Lord without response. Jesus knew they were insulted by his claim that they were wrong. Jesus claimed it anyway.
Then, in verse 46, we see what Jesus actually said to these men. The Savior condemned these men for loading people up with burdens that they would not themselves help the people to bear. This is sweet and gracious on Jesus’ part. The Savior shows that it should be our goal in the Christian life to help others to live rightly, but not simply by loading them up with rules. Instead, to please the Lord, we must be people who live our lives together, helping each other along the way.
The truth is, there are believers who are really good at pointing fingers at each other. Some of us thrive on showing people everywhere they are wrong. But not nearly so many of us are good at helping people to actually walk under the burdens we place on their shoulders. But Christ is here telling us that a mountain of demands with no help in the walk is not pleasing to the Lord.
This is not to say that we ignore the word of God or refuse to tell other believers of changes they should make. We must. But we also must, with love and grace, join them in the task of growth. We motivate them, not with mountains of guilt and burdens, but with grace, friendship, hope, and the glory of God.
Consider, for example, how often you have had a pastor slam you with guilt over your lack of evangelistic zeal. From the pulpit, the man whose job is religious, swats you for not doing enough to get to know your neighbors for evangelistic purposes. Now, ask yourself if you have ever really been motivated by that kind of guilt toward lasting change? I would guess not.
Should you be evangelistic? Of course. Should you share the gospel with your neighbors? Of course. But is a burden of guilt atop all the other burdens you bear as a Christian going to make that happen? No way.
We need to learn to work together to relieve these burdens. We need to help each other along the way. We need to lend a hand to each other more than we need to curse each other for not doing enough. We also need to understand that different people are already bearing different burdens in their lives and these same people have a different capacity for different kinds of work.
What I think is beautiful here is that Jesus strongly speaks against us laying weight after weight on each other’s shoulders without offering a hand. Yes, I want you to share the gospel. But with that, I should be saying to you, “How can I jump in with you to help?”