Most people have a very strong opinion about bees- they either love them for their complexity and usefulness to the planet, or dislike them for their sting and their continual presence around picnics and other outdoor gatherings. However, I have a complex relationship with bees. It is true, you will often see me jump back and let out a small yelp if one of these striped insects gets a little too close to me, but I don’t dislike them. In fact, I find bees, especially honey bees, fascinating. I especially enjoy watching their interactions with one another. Recently, when I notice lots of honey bees flying around my picnic blanket or table outside, I have started leaving out a small slice of fruit or something sweet while I am eating, so that I can watch the bees (and so that they will not fly around my sandwich!).
While colder weather means that my flying friends are much less active, I still get the opportunity to watch them every once and a while.
This past week, on a warm, sunny, and bright morning, I strolled into the plaza, a large, brick courtyard central to our small campus, armed with a takeout container of food from the dinning hall. Having just grabbed a late brunch, I scanned the plaza for a table to sit at so I could finish my meal before my 30 minute lunch break ended. I spotted a empty table on the opposite side of the plaza, and made a beeline for it (see what I did there?). when I was almost to my chosen table, an object on a nearby bench caught my attention. I paused. Looking closer, I saw that the small, rectangular container was teeming with bees, who were crawling all around the outside and flying around above it.
The sweet smell that brought me visions of pancakes, plaid shirts, and log cabins identified the substance before I read the label on the container: Syrup. Someone must have left a half-opened container of syrup from their breakfast and the bees had dived in for an easy meal. Brunch almost forgotten, I bent down to get a better look. As I watched the bees buzz around the pool of sugary liquid I noticed one bee who seemed to be in distress. It appeared that he had gotten a little too close to the syrup and fallen into the container, only to crawl out completely covered in syrup. Frantically trying to clean the sticky substance off of itself, the bee writhed and flapped its wings, but to no avail- he could barely walk around, much less fly.
Then, much to my surprise, an amazing thing happened. Just as quickly as I had noticed the honey bee’s distress, his companions did too, and one by one they left their own sweet meals and rushed to help him. Working together, each bee started cleaning syrup off of their struggling friend, some focusing on the wings, others the thorax and abdomen area. After a few minutes, a few of the bees, whom I wrongly presumed had given up, flew off, and returned shortly with more of their brethren to help the rescue effort. Within minutes, the bee was mostly clean, and able to fly around again.
As I sat watching theses bees, some of the smallest, yet most intricate of God’s creatures, helping their friend out of a sticky situation, I was reminded of Galatians 6:1-2, which says:
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”Galatians 6:1-2
And again I was reminded of James 5:14-16 and 5:19-20, which say:
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective…. My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.James 5:14-16, 19-20
When we hear of a brother or sister in the Lord who is caught in a sin or trapped in a sticky situation, we are often so quick to back away. “That’s none of my business,” we say, “besides, what can I do? that’s between them and the Lord.” And yet, though we disassociate ourselves with their problems, too many times we silently judge them. If I could count the number of times I have heard someone gossip about another believer’s problems under the guise of sharing prayer requests, the number would be astronomical. I do not say this only to point fingers or call out other believers, because as a person who avoids confrontation like the plague, I myself am all to quick to judge from a distance and do nothing to help people who are caught up in sin.
But scripture is clear: Christians shouldn’t struggle alone. We are to be the physical of expression of God’s love, care, and forgiveness to our brothers and sisters while steering them out of sin. If a child falls into the dirt, his parents will pick him up and dust him off. If a bee falls into a container of syrup, the other bees are quick to race to his rescue. It should be the same with us. Let us run to the rescue of those who need healing and point them to the one who can heal them. Let us work together as a body of believers to rally around hurting people and fulfill the Lord’s mission of rescuing those who are lost and freeing those who are held captive by sin. May we carry each other’s burdens, as Galatians 6:2 says.