“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25
Tara and I recently returned from a trip to Newport, Rhode Island where I began my Navy career. It was quite nostalgic seeing the Chaplain School, King Hall where I lived for two months, and all the places where I learned how to wear the uniform, salute, and of course, march. Marching was hilarious.
There were only 12 chaplains in my class. But all were from varying denominations—Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, 7th Day Adventist, Catholic, and of course I and one other non-denominational. How well do you think we would march together?—especially given the fact that none of us had ever been in the military, and the average age was probably about 32. So yes, marching was hilarious. We knew we were bad and we actually had a lot of fun with it in a self-deprecating kind of way. The dirty dozen who couldn’t keep in step with one another and march in a straight line. Our atrocious marching actually drew us together. We were horrible at it, and it was the one thing we agreed on!
We had a Marine Corps Drill Instructor who taught us all things military, and looking back, I feel sorry for him. What a task it was to produce military discipline in a group of not-so-military and disparate pastors and priests! But he worked wonders, and by time we graduated we had been transformed from a rag-tag group of crazy clergy to a corps of disciplined naval officers.
Whenever I read Galatians 5:25, the picture that immediately comes into my mind is marching with my fellow chaplains. The Apostle Paul said, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit (ESV).” Keep in step comes from a word that means walking in a line, holding to a rule. That’s what marching is.
Marching was important in Chaplain School, because it taught the importance of unit cohesiveness and keeping in step with one another. I had an advantage because I had been in marching band in high school and college and I knew the marching commands of “dress right, dress” and “cover down.” “Dress right, dress” means to align yourself with the person on your right so that you are in line and the right distance from them. “Cover down” means to align yourself with the person in front of you.
All this is helpful in understanding what it means to keep in step with the Spirit. He is the rule, the standard, the One with whom we align our life as we “walk in the Spirit.” When it comes to keeping in step with Him, we understand that we key on Him, His direction and leading. When we are out of step (sin), we must get back in line and conform to His standard of holiness. In marching one must have a continual awareness of the person on your right in order to “keep in step.” So it is with the Holy Spirit. We must remain ever-conscious of His presence to lead and empower us.
Do you have a constant awareness of the Holy Sprit’s presence and direction in your life? Where is He leading you? The immediate answer is that he is leading you to holiness. The direction and destination are holiness, or Christ-likeness. The territories through which He leads us to get there are prayer, the holy scriptures, worship, fellowship with God’s people, serving one another, and being witnesses to our faith in Christ.
Marching is really pretty simple, but it takes discipline and practice, just like the Christian life. Let’s keep our walk in the Spirit simple as well. There really is no secret, key, hidden formula—just the simple, ordinary, but supernatural means of the Christian life; the life of faith as we walk in the Spirit.
Dress right, dress, and keep in step with the Spirit!