Bearing Each Other's Burdens: the Importance of Community

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bearing Each Other's Burdens: the Importance of Community


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"I am here to admit that I am HIV-positive." With this admission on Tuesday's TODAY Show, Charlie Sheen hoped to "put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks, subtruths, and very harmful, mercurial stories that are threatening the health of many others, which couldn't be farther from the truth."

 

The story surfaced on Monday, when the National Enquirer reported that the actor had contracted the virus. The tabloid also claimed that Sheen had risked the lives of several sexual partners and others who didn't know he was infected, including his former wives.

 

Sheen contended that he had told all his sexual partners about his medical condition, and said it was "impossible" for him to have passed the virus on to others. However, he says that when he told his sexual partners, many threatened to tell the media. As a result, he has paid blackmailers "enough to bring it into the millions."

 

Contrast his story with another celebrity in the news: NCIS star Pauley Perrette. She attended worship with her church family in Los Angeles last Sunday morning, days after being assaulted outside her home. A homeless man has been arrested and charged in the attack.

 

During his sermon, Perrette's pastor called attention to the attack: "Even though this man was punching her and threatening her life, Pauley prayed for her safety and for him. . . . When Pauley was telling her story to the media on Friday, first by proclaiming herself as a person of faith . . . she proclaimed her forgiveness for the man who assaulted her." He then said to her, "We just wanted to say we are so glad that you are here and we love you very much." She tweeted later, "So so so good to be at church today."

 

We were made for community. Every image of the church in the Bible is collective—a body with many members, a vine with many branches. There are no solos in the book of Revelation.

 

However, the best time to build community is before we need it. When Charlie Sheen told sexual partners he was HIV-positive, many blackmailed him. When Pauley Perrette went to her church after being assaulted, she was affirmed and loved.

 

For decades we've lived in a culture that combines the worst of existentialism and postmodernism. Existentialism focuses on the individual's right and responsibility to determine his or her own purpose and significance. Postmodernism claims that truth is individual and subjective. Taken together, there is little role for community: truth is what I say it is as I determine the meaning of my life.

 

French philosophers have pioneered both philosophical trends. Now the Paris massacre has proven that we need each other. We cannot confront ISIS alone. We cannot secure ourselves alone. We cannot respond to tragedy alone. We need each other, more than ever. (For more on the attacks in France, please see my latest white paper, Explaining the Paris Massacre.)

 

In times like these, Christian community can be our most powerful witness. Galatians 6:2 is a command, not a suggestion: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Tweet this)

 

Whose burdens will you bear today? Who will help you bear yours?

 

 

Publication date: November 18, 2015

 

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