The gospel creates a whole new self-image which is not based on any comparison to others. The gospel (understood correctly) makes us neither self-confident nor self-loathing but both bold and humble.
That truth, when internalized, works itself out in relationships with everyone. Rather than looking at others as “above” or “below” us, we look only at our own responsibility to take what we have and who we are and offer it to God in gratitude for what Christ has done.
Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” At its heart, this verse means that we “do not become conceited.” Conceit is a deep insecurity, a perceived absence of honor and glory, leading to a need to prove our worth to ourselves and others. This causes us to compare ourselves with others. When we seem better than another in some way it causes us to puff up and feel great. When we seem less than another we are devastated for the same reason.
If we are conceited we will provoke and envy each other. “Provoking” is what someone does who is sure of their superiority. “Envying” is what someone does who is sure of their inferiority. Paul says BOTH are a form of conceit. Either happens to someone who is self-absorbed.
Provoking and envying seem like opposites but they are both forms of conceit. As CS Lewis observed, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
Would you like to know which is more natural in you?
Answer these questions: Do I have a tendency to blow up or clam up? Do I pick arguments or avoid conflict? Am I more likely to get down on people or groups or be intimidated around them? When criticized, do I get angry or attack back? Or do I get discouraged and make excuses? Do I think: “I would never ever do what this person did,” or “I could never ever accomplish what this person does?”
The Spirit works in us to apply the gospel to our self-understanding and view of others. He creates a whole new self image which is not based on comparison with others.
The gospel can make us bold and humble. That works itself out in all relationships.
I am humbled because I am a sinner saved only by grace. I can be bold because I am loved by the only ONE that really counts.
To “become conceited” (to seek our own glory in relationships) means that, however close we are to someone else, our treatment of them must always be selfish. the gospel undermines that. It calls us to live as “brothers and sisters” (Galatians 6:1).
“If someone is caught in a sin” (6:1), conceited superiority would cause us to look down on them. Pointing out their sin would help reinforce how good we look by comparison.
But a “brother or sister” will not ignore a situation when we see someone “caught” in a sin. This does not mean we confront ANYONE we see sinning! We are not to be quick to criticize and tell people their faults (1 Corinthians 13:5,7). But we must not overlook someone “caught” or overtaken by a sin. The sinful behavior must be a pattern and in a sense has overtaken the person. The person will not be able to overcome without help and intervention.
What will our aim be? To “restore them gently” (6:1).
Paul says this gentleness will only come if you “watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” We won’t be able to confront someone gently and effectively if we think we are not capable of equal sin.