The Law of Christ
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (v. 2)
- Galatians 6:2
An individualized mysticism is clearly not what Paul has in mind when he commands us to walk by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25). On the contrary, to follow the Spirit is to create and take part in a community of humility, love, and mutual support (5:26–6:2). Worldly people do anything to get ahead. Those who walk in the Spirit put others ahead of themselves (Phil. 2:3–4).
Bearing the burdens of one another is a tangible way to address the needs of others before our own. The burdens Paul speaks of in Galatians 6:2 are loads too heavy for one person to carry and represent all kinds of problems and difficulties. Joe’s burden may be a debilitating illness that has left him unable to put food on the table. We bear his burden when we feed his family. Sally might have no living relatives. In this case we reach out to her with love and friendship, adopting her into our family, especially during the holidays. Hank could be on the brink of a divorce from Carol because he has been caught in an office romance. Carrying their loads, we give Carol a shoulder to cry on and check in on Hank to make sure he has no more contact with his former secretary. Whatever the issue, Martin Luther writes, “Christians must have strong shoulders and mighty bones, that they may bear the weakness of their brethren.”
On the cross, Jesus bore our sins, cried our tears, carried our weaknesses, and shouldered our diseases (Isa. 53:4–5); thus, we imitate Him as we bear the burdens of fellow believers. Moreover, we also fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), proving that new covenant life is not lawlessness. This link between bearing burdens, imitating Jesus, and keeping His law helps us see, as one commentator says, that the law of Christ is His ethical teaching, which is exemplified in His character and conduct, and reproduced in His people by the Holy Spirit. It is not identical to the Mosaic law, but under the old covenant it did find expression in the Torah, albeit in shadowy form. The law of Christ is none other than the moral law of God to which the Law testifies (Rom. 7:12), of which Christ is the supreme example (Matt. 5:17–20), and that which we uphold through the enabling of the Spirit (Rom. 3:31), as the prophets foretold (Ezek. 36:22–28).
In our increasingly isolated lives here in the West it is hard for us to form relationships that open up opportunities for us to bear the burdens of others. We must therefore make a special effort to get to know people in our churches well so that we can bear their burdens and so that they can bear ours. Is there a burden that you can help shoulder this day? Then go lighten someone’s load. Are you carrying a weight that another can share? Go and tell of your need.
Passages for Further Study
- Ecclesiastes 4:9–12
- Romans 15:1–7