Last time we looked at the Apostle Paul’s observation in Galatians 6 that, within life, a person will reap what they sow. To say it another way, a person will harvest what they plant. Paul tells us to sow in the Spirit to reap the things of the Spirit which, as we saw last time, are what we lump together as the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control.
This leads to the question, how do we sow in the Spirit to reap the things of the Spirit? Paul anticipates our question and tell us twice in Galatians 5 to “walk by the Spirit.”
“Thanks Paul”, the cynical side of me wants to say, “could you be any more ambiguous?”
Paul doesn’t give us “Walking by the Spirit 1-2-3” but he does give us a few descriptions within his letter to the Galatians. But first, what do we mean by “walk?” This is often one of the Christian-lingo sayings that makes little sense to those outside the Christian community. Walk simply means your way of life. When Paul says “walk by the Spirit” what he’s saying is “live a life marked by the Spirit.” What are the marks of a life lived by the Spirit?
Live a life marked by love. Throughout Galatians 5, Paul urges the church to love one another and not give into attitudes and theologies that attempt to divide the church. Paul even says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision [there were those in the church arguing that a person had to become a Jew- circumcised- in order to be a Jesus follower] means anything, but faith working through love” (Gal. 5: 6).
As we try to live a life marked by the Spirit, the first mark on our lives should be the mark of love to one another.
Live a life not marked by the flesh. The second mark of a life lived by the Spirit is a list of characteristics that stand in conflict to the characteristics of a life lived by the Spirit. I won’t re-write the list, you can read it yourself: Galatians 5:19-21. There are some attributes on the list that we probably don’t have to worry about (sorcery, for example) but what’s interesting about the list is that they deal with attitudes, actions, characteristics that cause division. Paul mentions things like jealousy, anger and envy which have the ability to cause major divisions between people.
As we try to live a life marked by the Spirit, the second mark on our lives should be the absent of characteristics that cause division.
Live a life marked by the fruits of Spirit. The third mark of a life lived by the Spirit is evidence of the fruit (the results) of the Spirit. Once again, you can read the list (Gal. 5: 22-23) and once again the fruits of the Spirit are those attributes that foster unity: love, patience, kindness, faithfulness- to name a few.
As we try to live a life marked by the Spirit, the third mark on our lives should be the cultivation of the characteristics that foster unity.
The main takeaway of this post is that a major indicator of a life marked by the Spirit is the working toward and preservation of unity. We have to ask ourselves, then, is the working toward and preservation of unity within the community of the church found in our lives? If wherever we go division seems to follow, that appears to be a good indication that we aren’t living a way of life marked by the Spirit.
It is important to note that unity does not mean uniformity. Followers of Jesus do not all need to the same in all practices and expressions. Paul calls followers of Jesus to be united in direction, united in love and united in living the fruits of the Spirit.
As we walk, let’s walk away from division and toward unity. Over the next few weeks we’ll continue to explore this idea of “walk” and our way of life.
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