As I continue to read Barth's Basel sermons in Call for God, I have come across a text that brings me back to Jon Coutts's A Shared Mercy: Karl Barth on Forgiveness and the Church (I blogged a series of posts here). Speaking here on Galatians 6:2, Barth highlights how Christ's law (!) is fulfilled in our service and ministry to others.
This service is not merely a service of administration in Barth's sermon but instead, the coping with the unmentionable and annoying of our fellow brothers and sisters. I felt compelled to just quote at length:
But 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 things 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 behavior! O how he springs up before your eyes, how he deafened 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–traveler 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. 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 make things worse for the other fellow. He stays the same. His loads remain too. And the bother which he is preparing for you 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. (pg. 99-100)