“For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick, and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?, and when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”
And the King will answer them “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the last of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” “
I thought about that passage from Matthew 25:40 when, the other day, I was listening to the 1960s/1970s rock/pop group The Hollies’ version of ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’, also made famous by Neil Diamond. The song was co-written by American lyricist Bob Russell whilst he was dying from cancer and it sums up our responsibility to our fellow man and woman.
Its history is interesting as it is believed that the song came about as a result of a story told in ‘The Parables of Jesus’, written by a previous Moderator of the United Free Church of Scotland, who witnessed a little girl carrying a baby almost as big as she was, who said to him “He’s na heavy. He’s mi brither” and in time it became “He’s no heavy, he’s my brother”.
The Hollies’ version (a certain Reg Dwight- now Elton John played piano on it for the princely sum of £12) is I think the most poignant and spiritual and the words express it all:
“The Road is long, with many a winding turn that leads us to (who knows) where, who knows where?
But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him-yeah, He ain’t heavy-he’s my brother”.
At the moment of course we must all be feeling that we are still on a winding road and we truly don’t know where it will end but by trusting in God we knew we will come through it. So many people have risen to the challenge to “carry” people though these troubled times – whether it is helping out with the Food Cupboard or checking that neighbours and loved ones are OK, and that is in many ways not just our duty but it can also be a privilege.
“So along we go, his welfare is my concern, no burden is he to bear, we’ll get there,
But I know he would not encumber me, he ain’t heavy-he’s my brother,
If I’m leaving at all, if I’m leaving with sadness, that everyone’s heart isn’t filled with the gladness of love for one another”
Here this reminds us of what Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ was told by his late partner Jacob Marley: “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business”.
We should realise that God put us here to help, heal and love people on their road in life, and why not share that journey and lighten their burden with them?
Below is the best version of the song and some very moving and suitable images: