At times we must speak words that sound harsh to the one who has to hear them. It is difficult to speak such words. But more often, it is our privilege to speak the words of comfort the Bible contains. We may have to speak of sin. But we can always also speak of God’s grace and forgiveness. We can tell our brother, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). We can assure him that, if he has confessed his sin, God has already forgiven it for Jesus’ sake.

We must bear one another’s burdens. The Bible is able to express the whole work of Christ for us as bearing our burdens: "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" (Isa. 53:4 KJV). So it is not surprising that it can describe the whole of the Christian life as bearing the cross and admonish us to "carry each other’s burdens," saying, "and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2).

We must help one another. The desperation people have in needing to talk to someone is not always merely their desire to be heard, although that is important in itself. It is also often the case that they need help, and so their speech is really a cry for assistance. We will find that if we stop to listen to people, their needs will come rushing to the surface and we will have infinitely more to do than wash their feet. There will be people to feed, thirsty ones to whom to give a drink, naked people to clothe, lonely people to visit, sick and dying persons to care for, and so on for a host of other needs and obligations.

Jesus served us by leaving heaven, taking on a true human nature, teaching, and then dying on the cross for our sin. We cannot do that. So we must ask, "How can we serve others? In what way must we demonstrate the servant nature of our master?" I suggest the following.

Following the Lord Jesus Christ is an individual matter, but it is not individualistic. Let me explain. When we say that discipleship is an individual matter, we are saying that it is something the individual must do. No one can follow Jesus for you. Your husband cannot be your proxy. Your children cannot read the Bible for you, pray for you, obey the Lord for you. You must do these things for yourself, and if you do not do them, you are no true disciple. Individualism is something different.