It’s sad for me that my parents are spending long days at Duke Cancer Center this week, and I’m not there with them. I try to go along for Daddy’s appointments as often as I can, but they are staying for several days in a row this time. It’s comforting to know that my parents are surrounded with the love and support of their friends and family, through cards, phone calls, visits, and even text messages now and then.
The Word tells us to “Carry each other’s burdens and thus fulfill the Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). I’m so thankful for dear people who have devoted themselves to my parents, my husband’s parents, and our families in these past few months. Neighbors mow the grass. Family members and friends bring meals. Words of hope arrive in the mailbox. Phone calls and emails remind us that prayers are sincerely spoken. Prayer quilts are carefully stitched, and the ties that bind families and friends together grow tighter.
These kind gestures, according to Galatians 6:2, are fulfilling the Law of Christ. Which makes me wonder – what does that mean and why is it important?
The Law of Christ is a law of love.
Matthew 22: 34 – 40 ~ But when the Pharisees heard that he (Jesus) had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Romans 13:9 ~ For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.
Galatians 5:14 ~ For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The book of Galatians is perhaps best known for the Apostle Paul’s emphasis on the believer’s freedom from the law:
“If you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law” (5:18); “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.” (3:13)
Through His sacrificial death, Jesus set us free from the curse and the burden of the law of Moses. Jesus Himself invites us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
How could the Law of Christ – the law of love – be burdensome?
This past weekend, I spent much time in community. As you know, being a part of any community is a commitment. I participated in a birthday party, a birthday lunch, and a baby shower. I worshipped and served alongside my church family. We visited my folks. I sent and replied to emails and texts. We had friends over for dinner. To be honest, there were moments when I felt physically, emotionally, and spiritually worn.
If the law of love – the Law of Christ – cannot be burdensome, then true love and true community has to come from a source outside of my own physical, emotional, and spiritual resources.
For this reason, I relate to what Pastor John Piper meant when he preached, “The law of Christ is not easy because it’s permissive. It’s easy because when we are weak, He is strong…. It’s easy because He produces the fruit of love. Christ never commands us to do anything that He wants us to do on our own.”
Community-living is a commitment, whether I am celebrating with others or commiserating with them. Sure, it takes intention, time, and energy, but would I want to live any other way?
Sometimes I can’t find the right words to express comfort or encouragement. Sometimes I don’t have answers to difficult questions. That’s okay. Christ doesn’t ask me to fix another person’s difficulty, He simply asks me to lend my shoulder underneath their load.
So when I fulfill the law of love, I acknowledge that I’m not the one who bears another’s burden. It is Christ in me. I empty myself, He pours out His love.
The law of love requires us to live more humbly, love more authentically, to give and receive more graciously. We don’t do so alone. The Spirit of love empowers us to love.
The command to carry another’s burden is in itself not a burden. It’s an invitation for a community to Come.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
Resources – John Piper: “The Law of Christ: Bearing Each Other’s Burdens,” http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-law-of-christ