Life Lessons

Romans 12:9-21: Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

When I was younger I remember some great times getting to go sailing. From sailing with my aunt and uncle, to sailing with friends, to learning to sail as a camp counselor, I have always loved to be on the water. I especially love the feeling of being propelled through the water by aligning one’s sail to catch the power of the wind. Here are a few life lessons to be learned from sailing:

Lesson 1: Like life, sailing requires persistence. The wind is constantly changing, so in order to get somewhere, one has to be persistent.

Lesson 2: Simplify. Sailing teaches us to simplify -- simplify in what we bring aboard and in helping us to focus on what is important.

Lesson 3: Sailing requires constant learning -- learning of water depths, weather, courses, navigation, etc. In life may we always be teachable and may we always value learning.

Lesson 4: Sailing teaches us to push ourselves out of or comfort zone. May we always be willing to push ourselves to grow.

Lesson 5: Sailing is a reality check. You have to take things as they come and adjust as necessary. The wind is not always where you want it to be. If you want to head directly upwind you have to zig zag your way there. Sail the wind you have, not the wind you wish you had.

Lesson 6: Teamwork. Sailing and life are best done not in isolation.

Lesson 7: Balance is important. Without balance, you will find yourself capsized.

Lesson 8: Storms will come.

Lesson 9: Be prepared. You never know what will happen.

Lesson 10: Enjoy the ride. Be present. Pay attention and do not lose your sense of wonder. Sailing reminds us to never lose our sense of wonder. The sights one sees on the water are amazing. Just like, if we have eyes to see, there are always things in life that can bring us wonder and appreciation. Be in the moment in life.

In scripture whenever we see the word Holy Spirit it is a translation of the Greek word pneuma or the Hebrew word ruach. Both of these words literally translate as wind, breath, spirit. Today, as we dive into learning life lessons from Paul may we remember to always set our sails and put ourselves in the path of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

In today’s text, Paul gives us lessons in how we, as Christians, are to live. He has just told us (earlier in the chapter): to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. We are not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Now Paul is telling us how we are to live that out. Today’s text acts as a sort of covenant in what it means to live in the Spirit here on earth. We are to be about the work of building God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

By our own strength, the way of life that Paul advocates is impossible. Yet living in the Spirit this way of radical love is how we as Christians are called to live. Empowered by the presence of the Spirit enables and equips us to live lives of genuine love, overcoming evil with good. It calls us to genuinely love our enemies even to the point of feeding them and offering them something to drink. We as Christians endeavor to live by the guidance and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve heard it said that: “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.” The Holy Spirit is the wind in our lives. When we choose to live in the Spirit, the spirit will direct our lives. And when the spirit directs our lives, we will embody radical love in all that we do. We are called to love God, love self (in a non-narcissistic way), love one another, love of all of creation. Called to a life of love, solidarity, hope, patience, joy, peace, goodness, and radical hospitality. Because of the radical love of God revealed in Christ, we as followers of Christ, followers of the way are called to go and do likewise. May we keep adjusting our sails so that we live by Spirit.

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