If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, is a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 5:25-6:2 (from the 6th Epistle)
It is amazing how a few verses of Scripture can be packed with so much information. The last reflection revealed nine Fruit of the Spirit covered in a mere two verses. This reflection covers four verses from Galatians that reveal specific guidance in how to manifest these fruits in our lives.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25) If we say we live by the Spirit, and by these fruits, then they have to be central to how we are walking, or behaving. We can’t say we believe one thing and then do something else totally different. What we say we believe has to be in line with what we do.
Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking one another, no envy of one another. (5:26) The first Fruit of the Spirit is love and everything else derives from that. Love is all about taking from ourselves and projecting towards others, whether that is feeling or help. Love requires another person. There is no such thing as self-love. That would be narcissism. In order to love, there has to be another person involved. When we are loving others, we do not hold us ourselves over them in an arrogant way. Love involves patience, and it doesn’t provoke others. If we are loving someone or acting in a loving way toward someone, then we are encouraging and supporting them, not envying them.
Brethren, if a man is overtaken by trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself lest you too be tempted. (6:1) We’ve already discussed that love and sin cannot co-exist. In the moment when one is sinning, they can’t be loving, and in the moment one is love, they are not sinning. No matter how much we love or are loved, we all sin. When we are overtaken in sin, we hope that those around us will be gentle and easy to forgive us. When someone around us has been overcome by sin, we are supposed to help restore them in a spirit of gentleness.
In the world today, we see those around us mostly as enemies. We compete with others, even with friends and family. In many ways, we’ve forgotten how to work cooperatively. We’ve forgotten how to forgive. We’ve forgotten how to encourage good behavior rather than just punishing bad behavior. This is why politics has become more about winning and losing rather than problem-solving, and no one dares admit they made a mistake because a mistake is seen as a loss and the other side will seek to capitalize on it. Thus, everyone plays that they are perfect, and of course, no one is. There is no sense of restoring our brother with gentleness. Rather we condemn a fallen brother or sister quickly and forcefully.
Of course, when we are so busy seeing the faults of others, we oftentimes forget to see our own faults. In judging others, we fall into temptation. Before we are quick to judge and condemn others, we need to look at our own discipline of avoiding temptation and doing what is Godly.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. The law of Christ, which is to love one another, requires that we bear the burdens of others. We help others carry their load rather than adding to it. If a brother or sister has fallen in sin, we help them bear the shame and the pain and work with them towards repentance. When they do right, we are to celebrate with them. Again, going to the story of the Prodigal Son, we will all have the opportunity to be the father whose son has left. When the son comes back, we are supposed to rejoice that the one who was lost is found, and that the one who left came back. We are supposed to be thinking at all times how we can help our brother, which may mean listening, assisting, forgiving, or restoring or the myriad of others ways that we can help and lift up our neighbor.
In Myra, O Saint (Nicholas) you revealed yourself as a minister of Holy Mysteries. For fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, O Venerable one, you laid down your life for your people, and saved the innocent from death. For this, you were canonized as a great mystic of God’s grace.
We can all better help each other with our burdens when we lead with love and gentleness!