At some point during your life, you have probably heard someone say, “If everyone else just off a bridge would you?” Of course, you may have a snarky, smart response to this statement – but you get the idea. How often do we blindly follow others – without being aware of what we are even following?
We live in a world that is connected unlike any time in history before. We have access to news and information 24 hours a day. It’s estimated that in these 24 hours we are exposed to 5000 or more advertisements – all messages telling us what to value, what to consume, where to travel, how to live. And because advertising is such a ubiquitous part of our lives – we likely don’t even realize the influence it’s having on us. All of this information, all of this advertising shapes what we think we want and how we engage with the world. In a way it has become the law that guides and directs us. A law that many of us often fail to examine or question. Why should we? Everyone else is jumping into the over abundant information/advertising world – why shouldn’t we?
The Message translation has this great line from today’s scripture passage:
Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
Why don’t we choose to be led by the Spirit? Here are just a few of many possible reasons:
God often seems silent. I can’t stand silence. What am I supposed to do with that?
Not to mention – when God seems silent it often feels like God is absent. If God is absent, why should I try to be led by the Spirit.
Even when it does seem like the Spirit is present, the world is often still not what I want. Why would I follow something that’s not giving me what I want.
I don’t seem to be able to control the Spirit. There is no sure fire way to invoke it’s presence or to know what it wants. I need more control than that.
Following the Spirit is a fundamental exercise in understanding our place in the world. God is not our servant. God doesn’t just show up and ask how high would you like me to jump when we call out. We are not God. We don’t have control over the world. I am not the most important thing in the world. The world is more than me.
Of course, all of these realities make following the Spirit even harder. It takes intentional effort on our parts to see the Spirit’s path since it hasn’t paid for placement in any of the 5000 plus ads we see daily. In fact, we likely have to clear a way for the Spirit, make room in our life to give ourselves a chance at seeing the Spirit at work and falling in line behind her.
Galatians does offer us this glimpse of what it means to follow the Spirit:
But what happens when we live God’s way? [God] brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
But, the hardest part about this is, as one commentary pointed out, might be that:
In agriculture, fruit is a delicious result of long-term growth and cultivation. The metaphor “fruit of the Spirit” signals that God cares about the kind of people we are becoming, rather than only what we are doing today. We are to cultivate “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23) over the course of a lifetime.1
This is a long-term commitment. No quick fixes, results in just 30 days, or miraculous transformations.
And despite our commitment to following the Spirit, we will make mistakes. We will forget. We will purposely turn away from God.
The most important thing for us to remember is that we are bound to God through God’s love. There is nothing we can do that sever that tie. It is not within our control.
God’s love is always there waiting for us to reach for it. Waiting for us to explore where it leads. Waiting for us to realize what it points to and what it means for our life. Amen.