Love that bears burdens

Jim Rademaker passed along this quotation from Luther from the collection Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (June 20).  It’s a meditation on Galatians 6:2:  “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  It relates to the purpose of every vocation, to love and serve one’s neighbor, which entails bearing other people’s burdens:

 EVERYWHERE LOVE TURNS it finds burdens to carry and ways to help. Love is the teaching of Christ. To love means to wish another person good from the heart. It means to seek what is best for the other person. What if there were no one who made a mistake? What if no one fell? What if no one needed someone to help him to whom would you show love? To whom could you show favor? Whose best could you seek? Love would not be able to exist if there were no people who made mistakes and sinned. The philosophers say that each of these people is the appropriate and adequate “object” of love or the “material” with which love has to work.

The corrupt nature – or the kind of love that is really lust – wants others to wish it well and to give it what it desires. In other words, it seeks its own interests. The “material” it works with is a righteous, holy, godly, and good person. People who follow this corrupt nature completely reverse God’s teaching. They want others to bear their burdens, serve them, and carry them. These are the kind of people who despise having uneducated, useless, angry, foolish, troublesome, and gloomy people as their life companions. Instead, they look for friendly, charming, good-natured, quiet, and holy people. They don’t want to live on earth but in paradise, not among sinners but among angels, not in the world but in heaven. We should feel sorry for these people because they are receiving their reward here on earth and possessing their heaven in this life.

This is priceless.  We are quite willing to love “friendly, charming, good-natured, quiet, and holy people.”  But we are called to love “uneducated, useless, angry, foolish, troublesome, and gloomy people.”  That is, people with burdens.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    A true observation. It is easy to love that which is “lovable.” How often when we’re at church do we go out of the way to avoid those whom we think are inferior or unlike us?

    I’m not saying you have to get all emotionally mushy or overcompensate by being their best friends (which is an error in a different direction), but would it really kill us to shake hands with somebody we don’t know that well and genuinely ask how they’re doing?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    A true observation. It is easy to love that which is “lovable.” How often when we’re at church do we go out of the way to avoid those whom we think are inferior or unlike us?

    I’m not saying you have to get all emotionally mushy or overcompensate by being their best friends (which is an error in a different direction), but would it really kill us to shake hands with somebody we don’t know that well and genuinely ask how they’re doing?

  • http://blog.living-apologetics.org Paul A. Nelson

    Does this point out a critical deficiency between Lutheran theology of justification & sanctification, as opposed to our actual practice of it? I suspect more and more it does.

    Many Christians (individually & congregationally, let alone pastorally!) seem to equate these two things. When one is brought to faith in justification through Jesus Christ, then one is expected to make leaps and bounds down the road of sanctification. Lingering difficulties in lifestyle and deeply rooted sins are assumed to be uprooted immediately, and failure to do so may often be seen and communicated as evidence of a lack of faith. “If you really had faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you wouldn’t still be doing x, y, or z any longer.” The person may intellectually agree that their behavior needs to change, but they may lack other abilities (at least initially) that allow them to see and make the necessary changes.

    Lutherans traditionally like to pass this off as a problem amongst other, more legalistic Christian traditions, but in my observations we suffer from it practically if not theologically. Particularly with people suffering from a perpetuating cycle of sin such as alcoholism. People are glad to help alcoholics get on their feet, but struggle to know how to ‘be’ with people who refuse to make what seem like obvious and simple changes to us. Too often we’re inclined to say that we can’t and won’t be with these people until they’re ready and able to do what they need to do. We mistake Christian love and fellowship for ‘enabling’. We shrink away from the process of loving someone who is suffering when we assume the suffering could be eliminated. Watching someone slowly dying when they don’t have to is an awful experience. But it quite likely is one to which Christians are particularly called, giving steady and unwavering witness to the love of Jesus Christ in the life of someone who may not be able to fully receive that love the way we want them to, even though they put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Sometimes the sanctification that seems so obvious to others isn’t fully possible. Sometimes people run out of time and life before we see the effects of sanctification as fully as we think we ought to.

    I’m not suggesting that we not call a sin a sin. I’m not suggesting that we soft-peddle sanctification. But what is the role in Christian community for continually loving people who are deeply broken and seem unable to love themselves? Does such a situation mean that justification hasn’t been accepted? Or does it actually point to our own immaturity and need for growth in the gifts of the Spirit?

  • http://blog.living-apologetics.org Paul A. Nelson

    Does this point out a critical deficiency between Lutheran theology of justification & sanctification, as opposed to our actual practice of it? I suspect more and more it does.

    Many Christians (individually & congregationally, let alone pastorally!) seem to equate these two things. When one is brought to faith in justification through Jesus Christ, then one is expected to make leaps and bounds down the road of sanctification. Lingering difficulties in lifestyle and deeply rooted sins are assumed to be uprooted immediately, and failure to do so may often be seen and communicated as evidence of a lack of faith. “If you really had faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you wouldn’t still be doing x, y, or z any longer.” The person may intellectually agree that their behavior needs to change, but they may lack other abilities (at least initially) that allow them to see and make the necessary changes.

    Lutherans traditionally like to pass this off as a problem amongst other, more legalistic Christian traditions, but in my observations we suffer from it practically if not theologically. Particularly with people suffering from a perpetuating cycle of sin such as alcoholism. People are glad to help alcoholics get on their feet, but struggle to know how to ‘be’ with people who refuse to make what seem like obvious and simple changes to us. Too often we’re inclined to say that we can’t and won’t be with these people until they’re ready and able to do what they need to do. We mistake Christian love and fellowship for ‘enabling’. We shrink away from the process of loving someone who is suffering when we assume the suffering could be eliminated. Watching someone slowly dying when they don’t have to is an awful experience. But it quite likely is one to which Christians are particularly called, giving steady and unwavering witness to the love of Jesus Christ in the life of someone who may not be able to fully receive that love the way we want them to, even though they put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Sometimes the sanctification that seems so obvious to others isn’t fully possible. Sometimes people run out of time and life before we see the effects of sanctification as fully as we think we ought to.

    I’m not suggesting that we not call a sin a sin. I’m not suggesting that we soft-peddle sanctification. But what is the role in Christian community for continually loving people who are deeply broken and seem unable to love themselves? Does such a situation mean that justification hasn’t been accepted? Or does it actually point to our own immaturity and need for growth in the gifts of the Spirit?

  • Joanne

    1. Jesus did the work that made the forgiveness of sins possible.
    2. He gave me his Spirit at baptism through water and Word. He put the gift of faith in my heart and applied to me the forgiveness of sins that he earned on the Cross. At baptism, he made me a member of his Kingdom and imputed his righteousness to me.
    3. I am now a sinner and a saint, simul justus et peccator. Although I remain imperfect and a sinner, the Holy Spirit will now work God’s pleasure, i.e., his law, through me. It will take no effort or thinking on my part except to have His Law preached to me so that I will know God’s pleasure. Through the preaching of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will give me understanding of God’s Law.
    4. Through the means of Grace, the Holy Spirit sustains and grows my faith.
    5. The Holy Spirit works the pleasure of God, i.e., his Holy Law, through me by taking over my will and body, and doing through me what God wants done. His law, which is also writen on my heart, reassures me that what the Holy Spirit is doing through me is the pleasure of God.
    6. I am still a sinner, I can still resist the will of God in my life. I can say NO to the working of the Holy Spirit through me. St. Paul and I know this so well; the good that I would do, I do not and the Evil that I would not do, that I do. I see another power working in my members that makes me a very poor vessal for God to accomplish things through.
    7. God has always worked his will, his pleasure through Sinner/Saints. The hymn, Take my life and let it be, is a beaufiful exposition of how it works in my life. Lord if you open my mouth, I shall sing your praises.

    8. And until we are called home, life will contnue to be sinner/saint. We get and stregthen our faith through the means of Grace, and the power to allow God to work through us, as informed by His Law, which is also preached to us. The weaker our connection to the Word and Sacraments, the weaker God’s effect on our will will be.
    9. However, when God wants a thing done, he sees that we do it, with or without our will. “No God, I’m not going to go visit the new neighbors.” Then straightway, Ding Dong, hello, we’re your new neighbors and we wanted to meet you. God puts what he wants us to do right in our path and makes it a stumbling block to our will.
    10. God controls all and is the only origin of power, of life. We are so lucky he wants us to partake in the good that he does. It does really feel good when we are aware of the good things happening through us.

  • Joanne

    1. Jesus did the work that made the forgiveness of sins possible.
    2. He gave me his Spirit at baptism through water and Word. He put the gift of faith in my heart and applied to me the forgiveness of sins that he earned on the Cross. At baptism, he made me a member of his Kingdom and imputed his righteousness to me.
    3. I am now a sinner and a saint, simul justus et peccator. Although I remain imperfect and a sinner, the Holy Spirit will now work God’s pleasure, i.e., his law, through me. It will take no effort or thinking on my part except to have His Law preached to me so that I will know God’s pleasure. Through the preaching of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will give me understanding of God’s Law.
    4. Through the means of Grace, the Holy Spirit sustains and grows my faith.
    5. The Holy Spirit works the pleasure of God, i.e., his Holy Law, through me by taking over my will and body, and doing through me what God wants done. His law, which is also writen on my heart, reassures me that what the Holy Spirit is doing through me is the pleasure of God.
    6. I am still a sinner, I can still resist the will of God in my life. I can say NO to the working of the Holy Spirit through me. St. Paul and I know this so well; the good that I would do, I do not and the Evil that I would not do, that I do. I see another power working in my members that makes me a very poor vessal for God to accomplish things through.
    7. God has always worked his will, his pleasure through Sinner/Saints. The hymn, Take my life and let it be, is a beaufiful exposition of how it works in my life. Lord if you open my mouth, I shall sing your praises.

    8. And until we are called home, life will contnue to be sinner/saint. We get and stregthen our faith through the means of Grace, and the power to allow God to work through us, as informed by His Law, which is also preached to us. The weaker our connection to the Word and Sacraments, the weaker God’s effect on our will will be.
    9. However, when God wants a thing done, he sees that we do it, with or without our will. “No God, I’m not going to go visit the new neighbors.” Then straightway, Ding Dong, hello, we’re your new neighbors and we wanted to meet you. God puts what he wants us to do right in our path and makes it a stumbling block to our will.
    10. God controls all and is the only origin of power, of life. We are so lucky he wants us to partake in the good that he does. It does really feel good when we are aware of the good things happening through us.

  • mole

    The 28th thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation

    The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

  • mole

    The 28th thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation

    The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

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