Those of you who follow our midweek Bible studies on the Gospel of John and on Revelation, will recognize the name G.K. Beale. He is my favorite theologian and his books have helped me tremendously in my understanding and study of the Bible. This link is to a series of lectures he has given on the big story of the Bible and how the Bible progressively tells this story from Eden lost to Eden regained in the New Heavens and Earth.
Gal 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
What is the Law of Christ? Theologians no doubt have written massive essays on that subject. But I don’t think it is that difficult to sort out.
Joh 13:34-35 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. (35) By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Joh 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
1Jn 4:21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
So there it is. It isn’t, as John says in First John, a new commandment. Because when we love one another we necessarily obey God’s moral Law, the ten Commandments if you will.
Mat 22:37-40 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (38) This is the great and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Here in Galatians, Paul gives us an insight into this love which is the Law of Christ – in regard to loving others. It is this: bear one another’s burdens. There are many ways that we can exercise love, but this one really distills it down. Bear one another’s burdens.
Now, let’s bring this to bear on this issue of abuse. What will be a genuine Law of Christ response to an abuse victim who reveals what is happening to her and asks for help? It is obvious – bear her burden. Recognize that burden. Think of ways that you can help carry that load with her and help her get free of it. No brainer, right?
But you all know what is happening in the churches very, very typically – so typically that we can write the story before it even happens. We know how it will play out. Will her pastor and fellow Christians step and and readily bear her burden? Nope. Doesn’t happen. In fact if I were an artist I would insert a sketch here of a pastor and others piling more and more load onto her.
Let’s continue to think this through. If bearing one another’s burdens is a primary way in which we fulfill the Law of Christ, then WHAT is this saying about the real nature of all these “christians” who refuse to bear the victim’s burden? I can tell you. They are not fulfilling the Law of Christ. They are not loving her. And it doesn’t take long in reading through First John to discover that anyone who claims to be a Christian but who does not love their brother/sister is a fake!! Anyone yelling “foul! You are being too harsh and judgmental!” – I challenge to pick up their Bible, go to First John, and demonstrate to me that I am wrong.
How a church or any Christian deals with an abuse victim reveals the very nature of their theology, of their religion, of their claim to be in Christ. And the large majority are flunking this test big time.
Mat 10:34-39 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (36) And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (39) Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
One of the tell-tale signs that someone who claims to be a Christian, and even appears to be a Christian, is in fact a counterfeit, is their refusal to follow Christ at the cost of family relationships. Recently I was talking to a lady whose wicked husband demanded that she renounce Christ and return to the family (false) religion. Those are the moments that are defining. Which choice will we make? In her case, she chose Christ – and it ultimately even cost her relationship with her children.
I have written on this subject often and I mention it frequently in my teaching and sermons. Why? Because it is one of the most common stumbling blocks for so many poeple. Faced with a choice (and really, we are all faced with this choice), we must choose Christ. If we find our life here in this world, we will lose our real life for all eternity.
When we see someone who outwardly gives the appearance of a fine, saintly Christian, habitually choosing human relationships rather than obeying Christ, we can be sure that we are looking at a mere appearance of godliness, but that is all it is. An appearance. There is no power, no regenerating work of the Spirit. You see it evidence itself in choices like these:
- Consistently placing events scheduled by family members over Christ’s command. For example, what happens when there is some kind of family reunion, or gathering of some kind, scheduled on Sunday morning? Will we obey Christ and honor the Lord’s Day, or will we yield to the pressures put upon us by father, mother, sister, brother, aunt or uncle?
- Remaining in relationship with ungodly relatives, compromising Christ’s call to follow Him and to come out from among the wicked. Jesus said that His real family consisted of those who loved and obeyed Him. There will be a price to pay, but will we pay it?
- Pursuing a career/job that makes us choose it over Christ?
I think you get the idea. When you see a person who claims to be a Christian, even if they put on a pretty convincing saintly front, in their habitual practice choosing the world instead of Christ, always making a choice that does not require them paying any price for being a Christian, then you can be quite sure that you are only looking at a facade of godliness. And be assured – as you choose to obey Christ and follow Him, as you grow in real godliness, you are going to see that these counterfeits will have less and less to do with you and in the end, they will hate you.
I also wanted to add that there is a related sign of a counterfeit in regard to this issue of the family. Numbers of times the fangs of false believers who have crept in among us have come out when they saw a real Christian giving godly counsel to their adult children. For example, once a young man asked me to meet with him because he said he would like to talk to me about career goals for himself. We met and in the course of the coversation I was giving him some ideas for him to think about – EMT, construction, Coast Guard, etc. He thanked me and not long after that I found out that his father was in a rage, telling others that I had dared tell his son to enter the Coast Guard!
Now, I could give you additional examples of this very same dynamic, but what it demonstrates is that evil is lurking. That father, and in other cases I have seen, mothers, demand continued power and control over not only their spouse, but over their children. They see the children as property and any indication that one of them is thinking about launching as an adult is met with rage, accusation, shaming and guilting.
And this is why, once again, Jesus said more than once that we must love Him above all others, and that when we do follow Him we can expect that we are going to be hated by the world, and in particular by evil family and relatives who demand that we worship them and remain part of their kingdom. This is the evil one at work. It is a common ploy of Satan to pressure people to choose the world instead of Christ. And it is a generational, evil dynamic that if we bow to it will keep not only us in bondage but our children and their children and their children.
So don’t be duped. This kind of false Christian may put on a great show of “godliness,” but that is all it is – a show. They in fact belong to their father the devil and do all they can to suck others into that black hole.