taking the words of Jesus seriously

“If there’s anything I can do… Can I help? Just let me know… Anything at all.”

My son went into hospital, and for the first time, I was the object of help. There was this massive outpouring of prayer, support and love. Texts, e-mails and phone calls flooded in. And my instinctive response to this giving, to this love, was exactly what I had been taught to say:

“No. No thanks. We’re fine.”

What broke me down was milk. I had promised my daughter I’d make pancakes for the next morning. I had no milk. I wrote a very apologetic text to a friend. She brought milk. For me, it was a silly, embarrassed request. For my friend, it was an outlet for her desire to help.

Related: The Necessity of Suffering, It Must Go Through the Cross – by Colin McCartney

While we tell ourselves how modern our culture is, how sophisticated we are, how developed our sense of civilisation, we are still basically primitive. Tribal. When we have conversations, there is often an underlying script.

When someone offers help, what we should hear is, “You are weak. I am strong. I will give you strength.”

Our culture-driven response is, “No. I’m not weak. I’m strong, too. I will prove you wrong, and so not lose status. I must refuse.”

We read stories about time and cultures where honour and status are important. We tend to find these concepts a bit alien, a bit distant. But actually, we have simply hidden them. They are buried beneath centuries of social ritual. But make no mistake, they are there.

If we are new selves, as Paul teaches, we must have new scripts, scripts of the Spirit, not of the Flesh. When we are asked if we need help, we must rewrite the underlying message.

Related: Ku Klux Clowns in East Tennessee – by Shane Claiborne

Rather than hearing, “You are weak. I am strong. I will give you strength”, what we hear in the Spirit is, “I am trying to walk with Jesus. Can we walk together for a bit?”

Rather than responding, “No. I’m not weak. I am strong, too. I will prove you wrong, and so not lose status. I must refuse”, what we should say in the Spirit is, “Yes. Let’s walk together.”

Galatians 5:1 tells us to not be burdened by yokes of slavery. It’s easy to think of the big, obvious yokes of temptation and sin, of psychological trauma. How easy it is to ignore the subtle ones, the yokes we don’t even notice. But if our own burden is to be light, we have to surrender all the yokes.

We have to surrender slavery in all its forms.

John Watson discovered Jesus’ footprints late in life, and has been joyfully trying to negotiate The Way ever since. He is a musician and educator, living in Maidstone, in the south-east of England, with his wife and two children.

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