In Galatians 6:1-10 the apostle Paul describes what life in the new family of Christ should look like, and the traits he lists, explicitly and implicitly, are: (1) the restoration of sinners; (2) bearing one another’s burdens; (3) love of neighbor (“the law of Christ”); and (4) doing good to everyone. These traits of the church are more important than we might think because they act as evidences of key theological concepts and as devices for making Christ evident to the world.
First, the traits of the church Paul mentions in Galatians 6:1-10 are evidence of God’s existence because without a moral Creator the compulsion to bear another’s burden, to love my neighbor, and to do good to all would be illogical. If a material-only universe that rewards the strong and winnows away the weak is all that exists, then there is no value in loving someone who can do nothing for me, nor is there any value in being tolerant of others. There’s no reason to recognize a person’s worth outside of what he or she can contribute to the community of man and there’s no basis for recognizing any person’s rights or dignity.
Author Tim Keller, in his book Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, uses this rationale to demonstrate how irrational the views of secular humanists actually are: “The humanistic beliefs, then, of most secular people should be recognized as exactly that – beliefs. They cannot be deduced logically or empirically from the natural, material world alone. If there is no transcendent reality beyond this life, then there is no value or meaning for anything. To hold that human beings are the product of nothing but the evolutionary process of the strong eating the weak, but then to insist that nonetheless every person has a human dignity to be honored – is an enormous leap of faith against all evidence to the contrary.”
But a moral Creator who has a moral will does exist, which is the only logical reason to believe that transcendent values and transcendent rights for all people exists. This is why Paul insists on the church treating people in ways that are congruent with that reality.
Second, the traits of the church listed by Paul are evidence of Christ’s pre-eminence. In Galatians 6:2 Paul mentions “the law of Christ” which refers to the moral and ethical demands of Christ that are summed up in the “Jesus creed” of loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and loving your neighbor as yourself. When that is happening among a fellowship of believers, it is proof that Jesus Christ is the pre-eminent focus and force of that faith community.
Third, the traits of the church in Galatians 6:1-10 are evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work within us. When you couple these traits with the fruits of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23 you are able to create a “spiritual dashboard” that helps you gauge the amount of influence you are allowing the Spirit to have in your life. If these traits and fruits are evidently abundant in your life, then you know that you are “walking by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16,25). But if you are not doing these things on a consistent basis, then you know that you are still being led more by your sinful nature than by the Spirit of God.
But the traits of the church talked about by Paul are also tools that can help the church accomplish its task of making Christ evident to the world. When those outside the church see the followers of Christ forgiving and restoring each other, bearing each other’s burdens, loving others in Christ-like ways, and doing good to all people they are getting a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God is like as well as proof of the transformation Christ makes possible. In Galatians 6:1-10, Paul is making the point that the church proclaims the gospel of Christ to the world as much through its actions as through its words.
So, there’s one more thing about the traits of the church from Galatians 6:1-10 that all Christians need to note: Those traits cannot be exercised without investing ourselves in the life of our Christian brothers and sisters. We cannot restore sinners, bear one another’s burdens, love our neighbor, or do good to all people without sharing our lives with others. Yes, this requires risk and vulnerability – but such is the task we’ve been given of making Jesus known.
Will you pour yourself into the church so that the church can pour out the blessings of Christ for the world to see?