Galatians 5:26 - 6:5
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
What difference does the gospel make to your relationships? How does it affect the way you look at yourself and compare yourself to others? How does the gospel affect how you look at others?
Today’s text is a very short passage but is packed with principles for seeing ourselves properly and relating to others. All of our problems, hurts, habits, hangups, dysfunction, and brokenness are a result from a failure to believe, embrace and live out the implications of this good news gospel. All of our difficulty, loneliness, anger, depression, frustration, despair, and the like, is due to the fact that we are fractured in our relationship with our Creator.
The gospel rewires our hearts by making us both bold and humble. This affects our relationships with everyone. We no longer see others as above us or below us - rather we look only at our own responsibility to take what we have and what we are, and offer it to God as a sacrifice of gratitude for what Christ has done.
Let’s unpack the thoughts of these few powerful verses.
A Gospel-Based Self Image
If we are not reconciled to God through belief in the work of Jesus Christ, then we are left up to our ways to define our identity. This search for identity in anything other than God is crushing to us and our relationships. If your identity is in your job, spouse, kids, or possessions, your expectations will always be unmet and fracture those relationships. None of these things will fill that gnawing in you for value and worth. But the gospel is good news and solves this tendency
In Galatians 5:26, Paul warns us not to be conceited. He gives two extremes of conceit.
Seeing yourself as superior. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another…” Provoking one another is looking down on others as less than you, weaker than you, or worse than you. Paul is making it clear that this is a form of conceit - you are the measuring stick for others in your mind and from your perspective you are greater than them. It is easy for us to understand this type of conceit.
Since Paul has been addressing the sin of works and performance based salvation, this directly points back to those that are feeling justified by what they do or do not do.
Seeing yourself as inferior. Most of the time we do not think of this as conceit - but Paul’s thorough knowledge of human nature is brilliant. He adds to the verse, “envying one another”. He is clear that both the superior and inferior thinking persons are self-absorbed. In both cases they are focused on how the other person makes them look and feel instead of how they make the other person look and feel. Both want to gain worth by competition and surpassing others. Both want to be proud and superior. The only difference between these two people are the fact that one feels that they are winning and the other feels that they are losing.
If we are honest, many of us may bounce back and forth between these two positions all day long depending on who we are with. These are both forms of conceit. C.S. Lewis said, “humility is not thinking less of yourself - it is thinking of yourself less”.
Both a superiority complex and inferiority complex are born out of insecurity. They are both rooted in a desire to gain glory for ourselves. Paul is essentially saying, “Do not let your desire for glory make you either despise people or envy people”.
The gospel creates a whole new self-image which is not based on comparisons with others. Only the gospel makes us neither self-confident nor self-disdaining. If you are saved by your works, you will either be confident and not humble (if you think you are doing well) or humble but not confident (if you realize how impossible it is to live up to the law).
The gospel humbles me by telling me that I am a sinner saved by grace. It also gives me confidence telling me that I am loved by the only eyes in the universe that really count. So the gospel gives me a boldness and a humility that can co-exist, and can increase together.
How we see ourselves before God affects how we see ourselves before others. Are we justified before God based on our performance? Is the grace of God so easy and we know it is so hard to do right that it doesn’t even matter how we live? These curbs of legalism and license have been a theme throughout this letter of Paul to these churches. He has laid out how dangerous these positions are - both of these views nullify who Jesus is and what He has done. Both views nullify the good news - making it not good news. But these erroneous views also wreak havoc on our relationships with each other.
If you are a legalist, then being moral is everything to you. You have a constant reliance on other people’s approval. This need for validation makes it all about you. Galatians 6:1 will be difficult for you. Gentleness will not come easy when you see others stumble and fall.
If you are a person that sees the grace of God as a license to live however you want - or you believe that there is no right or wrong, life is just about pleasure and experience - your relationships will also suffer from your position. You will be slow to commit to anyone or anything because you only need others for the pleasure or satisfaction that they offer you. Your relationships are self-serving and you will avoid any major sacrifice for others. Galatians 6:2 will be difficult for you. Helping others and walking with them through difficulty isn’t your thing.
The more the world is about you, the more angry and frustrated you will be. The more the world is not about you, the happier you’ll be. The more the world is not about you, and the more the world is about Jesus, the more free you are - this is an identity issue.
This gospel-rewired world that God has created in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything! Not only are we powerfully reconciled to God the Father and given new identity, but that new identity in Christ creates a community of faith that’s spectacular to behold, and we get to behold it today.
Our Relationships Should Put Jesus On Display!
Our Via Communities are our primary discipleship tool. This section is to help you as you discuss the sermon with others in your life. It is designed for communities to utilize but can be used to facilitate a conversation between spouses, good friends, co-workers, etc., as we live to be faithful to God’s mission in his world.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?