Burden-bearing: It’s the Law
Do you realize that loving others is the law? Love, radiating from the Christian’s heart, is that which Paul had in mind when he wrote Galatians 6:2. In helping each other with heavy burdens, we fulfill the “law of Christ.”
The word law comes from the Greek term nomos, which “became the established name for law as decreed by a state and set up as the standard for the administration of justice” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New of New Testament Words, MacDonald, n.d., p. 653). The “law of Christ” is the standard, or measure of conduct, by which Christians are judged.
Some contend that the law of Christ in Galatians 6:2 refers to the rule implicitly given by Christ’s example. The idea is that Christ’s example leads us to a certain standard of conduct.
While the example of Jesus is certainly a rule of conduct for believers, I think that Paul refers to the Lord’s explicit teaching, recorded for us in John 13:34-35. Whether by example or precept, the standard is high and holy. The “law” established by Christ is the love he had for others. Listen to what the Lord taught:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
This was a new commandment in that nobody had ever lived on this earth and expressed love to mankind in the way Jesus did. His eternal love, of course, was ultimately displayed when he opened his arms to humanity on the cross. It is the Christian’s life-long pursuit to comprehend the dimensions of this divine love that was manifested in the life and death of Jesus (Ephesians 3:17-19).
Observe how this teaching regulates Christian behavior, placing our interpersonal responsibilities on the highest level. John wrote:
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:14-18).
Again, John writes:
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11).
Jesus loved our souls, therefore he died for us on the cross. As children of God, we ought to live consistent with our spiritual ancestry. We ought to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Paul contends that we ought to bear one another’s burdens. What happens when we do this? We fulfill Christ’s rule of Christian conduct. If there was one statement, one declaration, one rule, so universal, so comprehensive, that it would serve as a concise standard by which all conduct could be measured, what would it be? It would be this: love others like Christ loves you. The is the law of Christ by which all Christian relationships are governed.
Burden-bearing (Galatians 6:2) is one way we fulfill the command to love one another as Christ loves us. When the teaching and life of Christ are the standard by which we live and love, we realize the following about Christian burden-bearing:
- Burden-bearing is prompted by Christ-like love (i.e., by a concern for the spiritual well-being of our brethren in Christ).
- Burden-bearing promotes the spiritual enrichment of the burdened Christian. Thus, whatever assistance is rendered (e.g., physical, material, emotional, etc.), the goal is the betterment of the brother in need. The aim is to help a fellow Christian maintain and enhance his relationship with God through, and in spite of, a heavy load.
- Burden-bearing is possible because of kinship in Christ. What a blessing it is when we know Christian doctors, Christians who are mental health professionals, brothers who are businessmen, Christians who work in social services, and brethren who bring their various talents and trades to the aid of their Christian brethren. But what they bring to their Christian family most of all is Christ-like love for the soul.
We are commanded to bear burdens because we are Christians. As a Christian, whatever my profession or vocation may be, I am obligated to lighten the load of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Our professions may faciliate this, but it is our knowledge of the gospel, our heart of compassion, our Christ-like kindness, our balanced view of sin and suffering, and our focus on heaven that gives us the possibility to help our fellow pilgrims through valleys of deep darkness.
What then qualifies one to be a burden-bearer is that he is Christ-like. Loving someone who is heavy-laden — like Jesus loved you — is what is necessary to help someone with the crushing weight of sin or circumstances.
Ironically, the problems of people are the possibilities for our own spiritual growth. We can never be all that God desires without opportunities to serve. Opportunities, however, must be taken. Love like Jesus, and live for the souls of others.
Consider this. Christians are obligated to worship God. What sincere Christian wouldn’t desire to praise and thank God at every opportunity when the church meets? Yet Christianity involves far more than sitting through a service. It demands a life of service wherein we help one another.
Borrowing the words of Jesus, we need to lift up our eyes, look upon the fields, for they are ripe for harvest (John 4:35). See a need, serve your brethren, and help save souls. It’s the law.
Scripture references: Galatians 6:2; John 13:34-35; Ephesians 3:17-19; 1 John 3:14-18; 1 John 4:7-11; John 4:35