“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
It’s so easy to separate loving God from loving others. It’s easy to think that one must come before the other; that one is an “add-on” to the Gospel.
But that’s not the way the Gospel works at all. God loves to join together things that don’t seem to belong together. I believe He loves to constantly reveal the astonishing way that things are all interconnected.
The cross of Jesus is a overwhelming commentary on the unity of loving God and loving others.
When Paul writes in Galatians to “share each other’s burdens” (some of us know this phrase as “bear each other’s burdens”) in order to obey the law of Christ, our ears ought to stand up.
What is the law of Christ?
Simply put, the law of Christ can be found in Mark 12:28-34 (also in Matthew 22:34-40 and Luke 10:25-25 [in Luke read through verse 37 to show how wide Jesus’ understanding is of the word, “neighbor”]). A religious leader asks Jesus what the most commandment is. Jesus responds, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
In a sense, Jesus does nothing new here: all of Israel knew the first phrase. Every Jew was to pray the she’ma—the affirmation that God is one, and you must love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength—multiple times a day. It was a bedrock statement for all Jews. However, with the second statement, Jesus does make a bit of a leap, for he connects Leviticus 19 (the command to love your neighbor as yourself) intrinsically with the she’ma.
Much of Jesus’ ministry united these two realities. But it all culminated powerfully in the work of cross.
At the cross, fulfilled his own commandment from Mark 12 by bearing our burdens: of sin, of shame, of rejection. He took upon himself all of these things in order to take them off of us. It wasn’t just a “spiritual act” between himself and God the Father; it was a profoundly communal act as well.
So when Paul (or any preacher worth his salt) tells us in turn, “bear each other’s burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ,” we can be reminded of a few things:
- “Burden-bearing” is a way in which we can embrace the cross in our lives. When we take on the burden of suffering of someone in God’s family, we are following the model of the cross of Jesus. It is not “merely” a friendly act; it’s much more than being “neighborly”; it is, in fact, Gospel—”Good news”—to the world.
- Relatedly, the cross is our model for burden-bearing. It involves suffering, and a weakening. Rather than seek to triumph in the eyes of the world, Jesus chose to empty himself and suffer, eventually dying a criminal’s death on the cross.
- The cross and the church are intrinsically related. You can’t separate our salvation from our attitudes towards each other. If you try to tear them apart, you end up with a truncated, compartmentalized gospel.