Foundation for Reformed Theology


"Carry one another's loads, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

"Now we come to the most remarkable feature of our text. It is not our own loads that we are told to carry, but each is to carry the load of the other fellow. Certainly our own sins, and so our loads, are included. And certainly much should be said about dealing with them. But according to our text, which we are now trying to follow, our concern for them is not the characteristic and decisive thing in our obedience to the law of Christ. The important thing is rather to be ready and willing to carry somebody else's load and then really to carry it.

"Yes, this somebody else: your fellow man, your neighbour, this man who is only too near you, with whom you have to live now, or continually or perhaps all your days. O this somebody else with his backsliding and the bad habits he holds on to, haunting you like a ghost in everything he does, in his speech, actions and behaviour! O how he springs up before your eyes, how he deafens your ears, how he forces his way even into your dreams and disturbs your thoughts and wastes your time! O how he gets on your nerves! What a useless specimen he is of those folk who have no inclination to use the freedom given to them! How burdensome he is to you: this fellow-traveller with his heavy load, his baskets and sacks! How hard he makes things for you!--What is to be done in such a nasty situation? Will you ignore him, get out of his way, despise him? Well, if you do that you won't make any difference: not in him and not for you. You have scarcely ignored him when he is there again in some shape or form, just as a fly that you chase away comes buzzing back again and again. Or will you give him a lecture and tell him what a man he is, or argue with him, or flatten him with your talk? This way, as we all like to do, you may get things off your chest a bit--but in doing so you will make things worse for the other fellow. He stays the same. His loads remain too. And the bother which his is preparing for your remains the same too. Or do you feel like punishing him, paying him back in his own coin--as the song says: What you do to me, I'll do back to you? Dear me, what are we coming to? Without backsliding yourself, without speaking and acting like one of these ghosts yourself, you will certainly never see the end of it. And so really nothing can or will be made different or better like this. In fact, in all these ways nothing can or will come of it except this: it will be clearly seen that you at least are just as useless a specimen as the other man of those folk who, though set free, are still such slaves. What good will come of this? In all these ways the trouble can only become worse.

"Our text shows us a better way. Carry, so it says, each one of you--the other fellow's load.

"This is the better way because it honestly takes for granted that each party is in the same boat, that they belong closely together and are mutually responsible. Both are obviously backsliders and so carriers of loads. Both, too, seem burdensome to each other. And so both can only be helped together. But in this way they can and are to be helped. Together and not each for himself they are therefore addressed and called to a common effort: Carry!

"And above all, the way pointed out here is better because with it both are called to meaningful, helpful, promising activity. Not to some large-scale, not to some radically beneficial activity: nobody can remove the loads of the other fellow or the annoyance which this fellow is preparing for him. He must not even have the slightest wish to get rid of this annoyance. Carrying means just this: putting up with the mutual annoyance, suffering it, enduring it patiently. Carrying means: making use of the permission and opportunity to excuse the annoyance each causes the other. Carrying means: treating each other with a little kindness, not as we would treat rough, wicked men, but as we would treat poor, sick ones--rather like the way that seems natural to patients in the same room in a hospital. So carrying is really the opposite of blindness and indifference to the backsliding and sin of which both are guilty, and also the opposite of all the irritated accusations and brawls that start up at the sight of them. Carrying consists of the help given mutually when people receive and accept each other, together with each other's load, as comrades on a journey that they have begun together and can only continue together and end together. Certainly carrying will then quite definitely include discovering the beam in your own eye and finding that it is far more interesting than the mote in your brother's eyes; it will include being ready to look ten times harder for guilt, and so for the need of pardon, in yourself than in the other fellow. In this way we help one another and as a result each one helps himself. In this way we both get things off our chest, while any other way can only lead to new misery. In this way things get changed--not all of them, but at any rate some of them."

Karl Barth, Call for God: New Sermons from Basel Prison (London: SCM Press, 1967), pp. 99-101.

Dr. James C. Goodloe IV
Grace and Peace,

Dr. James C. Goodloe IV, Executive Director
Foundation for Reformed Theology
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