“I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”
(The Return of the King by Tolkien)
They stood at the foot of Mount Doom. Frodo and Sam, two small hobbits, had come to the last part of their journey. Frodo had to take the burden of the One Ring and cast it into the fires of the volcano. The burden was at its heaviest. Frodo could not even remember the past. He could only see darkness and fire. Yet, Sam, his best friend, could not let him fall into the darkness. “Then let’s be rid of it, once and for all… I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.” Lifting Frodo to his shoulders, Sam carried his friend up the mountain.
This scene is very moving to read and watch. The friendship between the two is something we yearn for, and need in our lives. Yet, why do we scorn at the idea of a band of brothers carrying us up the mountain?
The Need for our Brothers
When we come to church, do we see a need for our brothers and sisters? Or, are they just our “Christian friends”? Why is there a body of Christ?
In I Corinthians 12:12-27, Paul gives a description of what the church is like: a human body. Each member of the body needs each other. One cannot say another is unnecessary. A human body cannot fully function without all the parts working together in a healthy manner. Without blood (from the heart) and oxygen (from the lungs), the brain will not function. Without processed nutrition digested through the entire digestive system, the heart cannot pump its blood or have the blood supply needed to send to the whole body. Without the diaphragm, the nose, and the mouth, oxygen cannot enter the lungs and be used to supply the body. Even though we may think one part is independent, the body needs many other parts to function.
It is the same for the Church. Paul did not describe us as a Starbucks. We are not here just for coffee, fellowship, and a relaxing atmosphere to come and go as we please. No! We are in desperate need of each other. Without each other, the body of Christ cannot function in a healthy manner. We will die. Our spiritual lives are not meant to be lived in isolation.
The Need for Battling Brothers
Once we realize that we cannot survive without our Christian brothers and sisters, we can move on to the next part: The Battle.
Each of us knows our individual battles. We struggle with depression, sinful thoughts, words we wish we could take back, burdensome pasts, and the ever present besetting sin digging pitfalls for us at every turn. I Peter 5:8 states that our enemy (the Devil) is as a roaring lion stalking its prey while drooling with hunger as he eyes his next meal. Lions are masters of hiding and springing an ambush. The best way to spot a lion is hearing a warning shouted from a friend. One person may not see the crouched lion, but the other person may.
Spiritual battles are no difference. We cannot face the schemes of Satan and our own sinful desires by ourselves (Ephesians 6:12). Our brothers and sisters are there to encourage us so we are not deceived and hardened (taken captive) by sin (Hebrews 3:13).
Why is this important? We were never meant to battle alone. Every time we hear Ephesians 6 and the whole armor of God, an image of the individual Christian putting on the armor and fighting against evil flashes in our minds. However, this is a false image! Ephesians 6:10-20 is not well translated in English. The words are correct, but the Greek reveals a lot more (another reason to learn New Testament Greek). The verbs used throughout this famous passage are all in the plural! Together and in unity, we take up as a band of brothers and sisters the armor of God and stand against evil.
I remember recently when battling through thoughts of the past and dealing with the pain, I was in a very dark place. The thoughts were dark and gloomy. My seminary training and Bible study were hard to grasp. All the verses I memorized could not cast their lights through the fog of depression. That day I had never felt so alone in my life. However, I texted one of my brothers. Immediately, my phone flooded with texts and calls. I sounded the horn for help, and aid came. My brothers in Christ had to remind me of the truth even though I could not see it. My battle was no longer by myself. The body acted. James 5:16 was in play.
We are each in need of our battling brothers. An army is harder to kill than a lone ranger
Why Do We Lack our Brothers?
But, why does this not happen? A lot of people will say we struggle with pride and wanting to do things our own ways. While that may be true, I want to offer a different (yet overlapping) reason.
We do not open ourselves up. We keep our sins and struggles to ourselves because we fear rejection. We fear what others will think (a sense of pride), and in so doing we suffocate in silence. Satan is able to keep us in the migraine madness of our isolation to run the cycle of sin. The snare is triggered, and we wear a mask as our fear of man drains the life out of us (Proverbs 29:25).
It is only when we follow James 5:16 that the light of Christ shines in and the healing can begin. Spiritual healing goes deeper than physical healing. When we open up our lives and expose it to the body, the body comes and helps us heal through the Word and the working of the Holy Spirit.
When I began healing over my past, I kept everything inside. I thought all I needed was my Bible. While that may be true, it is only a partial truth. I was missing my brothers in Christ. I was miserable trying to fight the lies and thoughts on my own. Yet when I opened up and said, “Yes, I struggle with shame over my body. Yes, I struggle with same sex attraction due to the bullying and abuse I endured. Yes, I struggle with anger and pushing people away, because of how hurt I was” the healing began. They came around me, and in fact many said they knew my pain and had similar struggles, and together we battled. It was not easy at first. I wanted to push them all away and battle on my own. However, it was a lost cause without them. I had to reach out to the means of grace God had given me, and this meant recognizing the power of my band of brothers.
Are You Willing to be Carried?
Why is the spiritual gift of our brothers and sisters in Christ missing in so many churches? We would rather protect an image, our reputation, our movement’s “light,” or even be seen as “qualified” for ministry. We would rather get up the mountain ourselves rather than being carried.
The most freeing thing we can do is be open and see the grace of God being poured out as our brothers and sisters battle with us and carry us. However, we will have to swallow our pride and face reality. We will need to open up, say out loud our struggles, and ask for help. We need to admit that we forget what the body of Christ is all about: doing life and battling together.
I am no longer ashamed of my past and the struggles I have. I realize I cannot battle them alone. Satan will eat me whole if I do not rely on all the means of grace from God (the Word, prayer, the Holy Spirit, and my brothers in Christ). Yes, to some people my reputation is ruined. They may say I have said too much, and I can kiss a future goodbye. However, they are missing out on the far-reaching grace of God and the power of a band of brothers. The church was never meant to be a museum of saints, but a theatre telling the story of God’s grace in each redeemed sinner’s life.
The burdens are heavy. The thoughts do cloud our minds. There are days we cannot see the Truth. The “One Ring” we carry in our pockets weigh us down where we cannot move or even get up in the morning. Yet, let us remember the scene of Frodo and Sam at the base of Mount Doom. “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.” (Movie Clip)
We need our brothers and sisters in Christ to remind us of the Truth during the times we cannot see it. We need them to confess our sins to in order to receive healing. We need each other in order to truly be the body of Christ.
Are you willing to be carried?