Living by the Law of the Christ
“Go on carrying the burdens of one another, and thus fulfill the law of the Christ.”—GALATIANS 6:2.
1. Why might it be said that the law of the Christ is a tremendous force for good today?
IN Rwanda, Hutu and Tutsi Witnesses of Jehovah risked their lives to protect one another from the ethnic slaughter that recently swept that land. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kobe, Japan, who lost family members in the devastating earthquake were shattered by their loss. Yet, they moved promptly to rescue other victims. Yes, heartwarming examples from around the world demonstrate that the law of the Christ is at work today. It is a tremendous force for good.
2. How has Christendom missed the point of the law of the Christ, and how do we go about fulfilling that law?
2 At the same time, a Bible prophecy about these critical “last days” is being fulfilled. Many have “a form of godly devotion” but ‘prove false to its power.’ (2 Timothy 3:1, 5) Especially in Christendom, religion is often a matter of form, not of the heart. Is that because it is too difficult to live by the law of the Christ? No. Jesus would not give us a law that could not be followed. Christendom has simply missed the point of that law. She has failed to heed these inspired words: “Go on carrying the burdens of one another, and thus fulfill the law of the Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) We “fulfill the law of the Christ” by carrying one another’s burdens, not by imitating the Pharisees and unjustifiably adding to our brothers’ loads.
3. (a) What are some commands that are included in the law of the Christ? (b) Why would it be wrong to conclude that the Christian congregation should have no rules other than the direct commands of Christ?
3 The law of the Christ includes all of Christ Jesus’ commands—whether preaching and teaching, keeping the eye pure and simple, working at keeping peace with our neighbor, or removing uncleanness from the congregation. (Matthew 5:27-30; 18:15-17; 28:19, 20; Revelation 2:14-16) Indeed, Christians are obligated to observe all commands in the Bible that are directed to followers of Christ. And there is more. Jehovah’s organization, as well as individual congregations, has to establish necessary rules and procedures in order to preserve good order. (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40) Why, Christians could not even meet together if they had no rules as to when, where, and how to hold such meetings! (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Cooperating with reasonable guidelines laid down by those given authority in the organization is also a part of fulfilling the law of the Christ.—Hebrews 13:17.
4. What is the driving force behind pure worship?
4 Nonetheless, true Christians do not allow their worship to become a meaningless structure of laws. They do not serve Jehovah merely because some individual or organization tells them to do so. Rather, the driving force behind their worship is love. Paul wrote: “The love of the Christ compels us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, footnote) Jesus commanded his followers to love one another. (John 15:12, 13) Self-sacrificing love is the basis of the law of the Christ, and it compels or motivates true Christians everywhere, both in the family and in the congregation. Let us see how.
In the Family
5. (a) How can parents fulfill the law of the Christ in the home? (b) What do children need from their parents, and what obstacles must some parents overcome in order to supply it?
5 The apostle Paul wrote: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:25) When a husband imitates Christ and treats his wife with love and understanding, he fulfills a vital aspect of the law of the Christ. Moreover, Jesus openly showed affection for young children, taking them into his arms, laying his hands upon them, and blessing them. (Mark 10:16) Parents who fulfill the law of the Christ also show affection for their children. True, there are parents who find it a challenge to imitate Jesus’ example in this regard. Some are not demonstrative by nature. Parents, do not let such considerations keep you from showing your children the love you feel for them! It is not enough for you to know that you love your children. They must know it too. And they will not know it unless you find ways to show your love.—Compare Mark 1:11.
6. (a) Do children need parental rules, and why do you so answer? (b) What underlying reason for household rules do children need to grasp? (c) What dangers are avoided when the law of the Christ prevails in the household?
6 At the same time, children need boundaries, which means that their parents need to set rules and sometimes enforce these rules by discipline. (Hebrews 12:7, 9, 11) Even so, children must be helped progressively to see the underlying reason for these rules: their parents love them. And they must learn that love is the best reason for them to obey their parents. (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20; 1 John 5:3) A discerning parent’s goal is to teach young ones to use their “power of reason” so that eventually they will make good decisions on their own. (Romans 12:1; compare 1 Corinthians 13:11.) On the other hand, rules should not be too numerous or discipline too harsh. Paul says: “You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.” (Colossians 3:21; Ephesians 6:4) When the law of the Christ prevails in the household, there is no place for discipline administered with uncontrolled anger or for hurtful sarcasm. In such a home, children feel safe and upbuilt, not burdened or torn down.—Compare Psalm 36:7.
7. In what ways might Bethel homes provide an example when it comes to setting rules in the home?
7 Some who have visited Bethel homes around the world say that such are good examples of balance in the matter of rules for a family. Though composed of adults, such institutions function much like families.* Bethel operations are complex and require a fair number of rules—certainly more than the average family. Nevertheless, the elders taking the lead in Bethel homes, offices, and factory operations endeavor to apply the law of the Christ. They view it as their assignment not only to organize the work but also to promote spiritual progress and “the joy of Jehovah” among their fellow workers. (Nehemiah 8:10) Therefore, they endeavor to do things in a positive and encouraging way and strive to be reasonable. (Ephesians 4:31, 32) No wonder Bethel families are known for their joyful spirit!
In the Congregation
8. (a) What should always be our goal in the congregation? (b) Under what circumstances have some asked for or tried to make rules?
8 In the congregation it is likewise our goal to build one another up in the spirit of love. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) So all Christians should be careful not to add to the burdens of others by taking it upon themselves to impose their own ideas in matters of personal choice. At times, some write to the Watch Tower Society asking for rulings on such matters as what view they should have of specific films, books, and even toys. Yet, the Society is not authorized to scrutinize such things and to issue judgments on them. In most cases, these are matters that each individual or family head should decide, based on his love of Bible principles. Others tend to turn the Society’s suggestions and guidelines into rules. For example, in the March 15, 1996, issue of The Watchtower, there was a fine article encouraging elders to make regular shepherding calls on congregation members. Was the purpose to establish rules? No. Although those who are able to follow the suggestions find many benefits, some elders are not in a position to do so. Similarly, the article “Questions From Readers” in the April 1, 1995, issue of The Watchtower cautioned against detracting from the dignity of the occasion of baptism by going to extremes, such as wild partying or staging victory parades. Some have carried this mature counsel to extremes, even making a rule that sending an encouraging card on this occasion would be wrong!
9. Why is it important that we avoid being overly critical and judgmental of one another?
9 Consider, too, that if “the perfect law that belongs to freedom” is to prevail in our midst, we must accept that not all Christian consciences are identical. (James 1:25) Should we make an issue if people have individual choices that do not violate Scriptural principles? No. Our doing so would be divisive. (1 Corinthians 1:10) Paul, when warning us against passing judgment on a fellow Christian, said: “To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for Jehovah can make him stand.” (Romans 14:4) We risk displeasing God if we speak against one another over matters that should be left to the individual conscience.—James 4:10-12.
10. Who are assigned to watch over the congregation, and how should we support them?
10 Let us remember, too, that the elders are assigned to keep watch over the flock of God. (Acts 20:28) They are there to help. We should feel free to approach them for advice, for they are students of the Bible and are familiar with what has been discussed in the literature of the Watch Tower Society. When the elders see conduct that will likely lead to a violation of Scriptural principles, they fearlessly offer needed counsel. (Galatians 6:1) Congregation members follow the law of the Christ by cooperating with these dear shepherds, who take the lead in their midst.—Hebrews 13:7.
Elders Apply the Law of the Christ
11. How do elders apply the law of the Christ in the congregation?
11 Elders are eager to fulfill the law of the Christ in the congregation. They take the lead in preaching the good news, teach from the Bible so as to reach hearts and, as loving, gentle shepherds, speak to “depressed souls.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) They avoid the unchristian attitudes that exist in so many of Christendom’s religions. True, this world is degenerating rapidly, and like Paul, elders may feel anxiety for the flock; but they maintain balance as they act on such concerns.—2 Corinthians 11:28.
12. When a Christian approaches an elder for help, how might the elder respond?
12 For example, a Christian may wish to consult with an elder about an important matter that is not covered by some direct Scriptural reference or that calls for balancing different Christian principles. Perhaps he has been offered a promotion at work that has a larger salary but greater responsibility. Or the unbelieving father of a young Christian may be making demands on his son that could affect his ministry. In such situations the elder refrains from giving a personal opinion. Rather, he will likely open the Bible and help the individual to reason on the relevant principles. He may use the Watch Tower Publications Index, if available, to locate what “the faithful and discreet slave” has said on the subject in the pages of The Watchtower and other publications. (Matthew 24:45) What if the Christian thereafter makes a decision that does not seem wise to the elder? If the decision does not directly transgress Bible principles or laws, the Christian will find that the elder recognizes the individual’s right to make such a decision, knowing that “each one will carry his own load.” The Christian should remember, however, that “whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Galatians 6:5, 7.
13. Rather than giving direct answers to questions or giving their own opinions, why do elders help others to reason on matters?
13 Why does the experienced elder act in this way? For at least two reasons. First, Paul told one congregation that he was not ‘the master over their faith.’ (2 Corinthians 1:24) The elder, in helping his brother to reason on the Scriptures and make his own informed decision, is imitating Paul’s attitude. He recognizes that there are limits to his authority, just as Jesus recognized that there were limits to his authority. (Luke 12:13, 14; Jude 9) At the same time, elders readily offer helpful, even strong, Scriptural counsel where needed. Second, he is training his fellow Christian. The apostle Paul said: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) Hence, to grow to maturity, we have to use our own perceptive powers, not always relying on someone else to give us the answers. The elder, by showing his fellow Christian how to reason on the Scriptures, is in this way helping him to progress.
14. How can mature ones show that they trust in Jehovah?
14 We can have faith that Jehovah God by means of his holy spirit will influence the hearts of true worshipers. Thus, mature Christians appeal to the hearts of their brothers, entreating them, as did the apostle Paul. (2 Corinthians 8:8; 10:1; Philemon 8, 9) Paul knew that it is mainly the unrighteous, not the righteous, who need detailed laws to keep them in line. (1 Timothy 1:9) He expressed, not suspicion or distrust, but faith in his brothers. To one congregation he wrote: “We have confidence in the Lord regarding you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:4) Paul’s faith, trust, and confidence surely did much to motivate those Christians. Elders and traveling overseers today have similar aims. How refreshing these faithful men are, as they lovingly shepherd the flock of God!—Isaiah 32:1, 2; 1 Peter 5:1-3.
Living by the Law of the Christ
15. What are some questions we can ask ourselves to see whether we are applying the law of the Christ in our relationship with our brothers?
15 All of us need to examine ourselves regularly to see whether we are living by and promoting the law of the Christ. (2 Corinthians 13:5) Really, all of us can benefit by asking: ‘Am I upbuilding or critical? Am I balanced or extreme? Do I show consideration for others or insist on my own rights?’ A Christian does not try to dictate what steps his brother should or should not take in matters that are not specifically covered in the Bible.—Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 4:6.
16. How can we help those with negative views of themselves, thus fulfilling a vital aspect of the law of the Christ?
16 In these critical times, it is important for us to seek ways to encourage one another. (Hebrews 10:24, 25; compare Matthew 7:1-5.) When we look at our brothers and sisters, do not their good qualities mean much more to us than their weaknesses? To Jehovah, each one is precious. Unhappily, not all feel that way, even about themselves. Many tend to see only their own personal flaws and imperfections. To encourage such ones—and others—could we try to talk to one or two people at each meeting, letting them know why we value their presence and the important contribution they make in the congregation? What a joy to ease their burden in this way and thereby fulfill the law of the Christ!—Galatians 6:2.
The Law of the Christ Is At Work!
17. In what different ways do you see the law of the Christ at work in your congregation?
17 The law of the Christ is at work in the Christian congregation. We see it daily—when fellow Witnesses eagerly share the good news, when they comfort and encourage one another, when they struggle to serve Jehovah despite the most difficult problems, when parents strive to raise their children to love Jehovah with joyous hearts, when overseers teach God’s Word with love and warmth, inciting the flock to have a burning zeal to serve Jehovah forever. (Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14) When we as individuals put the law of the Christ to work in our own lives, how Jehovah’s heart rejoices! (Proverbs 23:15) He wants all those who love his perfect law to live forever. In the coming Paradise, we will see a time when mankind is perfect, a time without lawbreakers, and a time when every inclination of our hearts will be under control. What a glorious reward for living by the law of the Christ!
Such homes are not like Christendom’s monasteries. There are no “abbots,” or “fathers,” in that sense. (Matthew 23:9) Responsible brothers are accorded respect, but their service is guided by the same principles that govern all elders.
What Do You Think?
□ Why has Christendom missed the point of the law of the Christ?
□ How may we put the law of the Christ to work in the family?
□ To apply the law of the Christ in the congregation, what must we avoid, and what must we do?
□ How may elders obey the law of the Christ in their dealings with the congregation?
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Your child has a great need for love
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How refreshing our loving shepherds are!