I ignored them.
"Ok, sure. Fine. No big deal." Except it is.
This person has a chronic storm of chaos in their life, partially through their own choices, and is often complaining. I simply was not in the mood for it and I deemed I didn't have time for their drama so I ignored them; brushed them off. I wasn't rude about it. I was actually quite polite. I lent a seemingly listening ear but in the back of my mind I was formulating my exit strategy to extricate myself from the conversation and when opportunity arose, I took it. No harm, no foul - right?
I even felt pretty good about it. Most people wouldn't even make eye contact for fear of the deluge of complaints I had just endured, but I politely listened for a whole minute-thirty. And then, I closed the door on their life and went back to the tasks of my own very busy one. Success - their drama remained theirs and I was free to pursue the multitude of tasks in my day.
And in doing so, I became a law breaker.
To some this seems an overly dramatic statement and to be honest, I have even wrestled with this. Ever wrestle with God on something, feel that little gnawing in your heart, and seek to excuse your actions only to find the more you try to justify, the more your footing evaporates?
I have a scripture feed that comes across my phone and the verse that happened to be on my feed this day was a single sentence found in Galatians 6:2 which reads:
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
Ok, but surely this means the really important things like loss of a loved one, sickness, or other life altering traumatic events. BURDENS with a capital "B". I had to dig, I had to know what was being said so I turned to the Greek. The word here, "baros" literally means any weight, any heaviness, any trouble be it seemingly heavy or seemingly light. From deep poverty to the deep and profound revelations of God to the seemingly small. We are to carry (walk with, step in line with the one encumbered) and in doing so we fulfill the law of Christ.
I was not willing nor had I the desire to bear or carry the burdens of this individual above and as a result, I found myself breaking or falling short of the law of Christ. This sounded serious - I was just trying to preserve my priorities and responsibilities and not get entangled or overly bogged down in the chaos of another. What is this law of Christ?
Literally, the word for "law" here can give reference to the Mosaic Law, the entirety of the Pentatuch (the first five books of the Old Testament held sacred by the Jews of Jesus' day) or the entirety of the teachings of Christ. Further light can be shed on this if we look at Jesus' teachings in Matthew 22.
The scenario is that Jesus was teaching and the Pharisees and Sadducees were trying to outsmart and catch him in his own words and prove him false or corruptible at least. A Pharisee, a scholar and "expert" of the Mosaic law addresses Jesus.
"Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?'
Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.' "
Matthew 22:34-40 NIV
Love God with everything in you. Love people at the very minimum as much as would you love and care for yourself. Jesus is telling these experts that all of their rules, laws and teachings boil down to these foundational truths. These were the living breath of the "law", its essence. This is the summation and this is the Law of Christ. Where men seek a set of rules, Jesus was seeking to show redemption through relationship.
Yet we (I) still struggle with this fact - it is through our sharing of burden that His love most effectively pulls the heart. He modeled this for us repeatedly as he walked among us. He ate with us, wept with us, wrapped his arms around our diseased bodies, frequented the company of those regarded lowest in our society speaking softly past adulterous tragedy. Redemption through relationship. Yet how often am I closing doors to these relationships? Our schedules, our rationalizations, our agendas all mean nothing when we are not effectively instrumental in helping lost children find their way to the Father. This is our highest calling.
Rather than looking for exit strategies to extricate and disentangle ourselves from the problems of others in an effort to preserve our to-do lists, our safety and our comfort, we need to look to the example of our Lord who went out of his way to cross paths with the troubled, burdened, and those needing a shoulder, a hand up, a healing touch, or simply an ear to listen. They weren't conveniently gathered at a local charity event. There was never a photo op or a t-shirt announcing involvement. Often the burdened were all around him every day and approached when he was on mission to another appointment. Convenience was never a factor - the relationship was always foremost. These were lost that needed to be restored to the Father.
If I could live my life more like this, if we would all live our lives more like this, we would "fulfill the law of Christ." Yet too often I find myself lacking enthusiasm or freedom to pursue this lifestyle either because of self-imposed agendas and priorities, or simply because I am not being sensitive to opportunities at hand. When we lack adherence to fulfilling the law, in some form or another, we are then active in participating in broken law.
Because His law is unrelenting, restorative love.