“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
- Galatians 5:25-26
As a 6’6” lanky man from East Tennessee, I won’t be approaching the ‘keep in step’ imagery here from the perspective of a dancer. But here’s to imagining, right?!
Sandwiched between very practical admonitions regarding how to best treat one another, Paul advises his Galatian counterparts, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
One of the most interesting components about this is that Paul leaves room for a difference between living by the Spirit and keeping in step with the Spirit. I mean, are we just splitting hairs at this point?
We do well to ask ourselves what the different nuances might be. Living by the Spirit suggests that we have made a commitment to allow God’s Spirit to direct our lives, a more general description. I think to keep in step with that same Spirit is to be sensitive to it, to be sober-minded and aware of God’s movement in our midst, to understand God’s will in the particular moments we find ourselves.
Again, this advice comes in the midst of us understanding how to enact spiritual living within the context of human relationships. Because that’s really the most dynamic and ever-evolving part of life.
We have to keep in step with God’s Spirit in our relationships because it is true that people are always changing. Our needs change, our struggles change, our motivations change, the people involved in our lives change, sometimes our understanding of faith changes.
Even now, I can think of people going through different pivotal moments. A new job, the loss of a parent, a struggling marriage, going back to school as an adult. Keeping in step with the Spirit is about paying attention to people’s situations, and connecting with God beyond our five senses in how we can be a blessing to people in those situations.
How do we keep in step in this way? We pray. As we pray, we consider those in our day-to-day. Then we refuse conceit, as the verse above reminds us. Conceit is that ugly thing in all of us that is makes us protect ourselves, depend only on ourselves, promote ourselves, at the cost of another.
Thus the writer’s warning, that when we become conceited, we provoke one another and we envy one another. Rather, it must be our aim to spur one another on towards good works, build one another up in love - to celebrate one another’s gifts and skills and contributions to the community of faith.
So here’s to learning the dance of being attentive and responding to God’s Spirit. What an alive experience!