Romans 12: 5-16
In this letter, Paul calls each of us to one universal standard in the way we live our lives. It is a standard that speaks to us on two levels: first is the manner in which we view ourselves and our talents and the second is how we live with one another.
In the first half of his letter, Paul talks to us about the gifts that each of us have. And his exhortation is direct: accept the gifts you have been given; thank the Lord for those gifts and use those gifts wisely to help others.
You know, there comes a point in each of our lives when we stop, review our lives and sometimes question what we have done with our lives. Reviewing a life lived – as we grow older- is a common thing.
Sometimes we judge ourselves fairly and sometimes it is harshly. I know that I am guilty – often – of judging my life too harshly, questioning if I could have done more. But the key to a peaceful and fair assessment of our lives lies in stopping first and asking what gifts have we been given. Gifts can be simple – a good parent, a good spouse, a good friend or they can be focused – the gift of being a good teacher; a gift of wisdom and being a good assessor of situations; a gift of musical aptitude. Once you have identified your gifts then the next step is asking did I use them fully. When you look at this score card of your life, honestly, I challenge you that you will find that whatever gifts you were given, you did use them fully. Could you have done more? Maybe. But the assessment lies in whether you did the best you could. And truthfully, all of us did. Maybe not perfectly. Maybe not as often. Maybe not as generously. But we tried to do the best. That’s the key. That’s the answer to assessing our lives. Were we sincere in living our lives and sharing our gifts? I say “yes” I believe that everyone here has. Maybe I’s because I believe in the goodness of each of you. Maybe it’s because, after more than 30 years in ministry, I can sense the motivation of a person’s life or his or her sincerity. Whatever the case. I know that goodness and sincerity resides here. And sincerity leads us to the second part of this letter from Paul.
If we are sincere in the way we lived our lives then we came to know the gift of love – from one another, from a spouse, from a child, from a good friend. And Paul urges us to take that gift of love and use it for others. Not just when it is expected but when it is unexpected. Remember the words of Paul here: “Love one another with the affection of brothers and sisters. Anticipate each other in showing respect.” You and I both know that it’s that unexpected act of love, of kindness, of generosity that is so special. Because it springs from a person’s heart with only one motivation – to bring a moment of joy to us. And that moment is so treasured because we immediately recognized the love that was behind it. We immediately recognized that the motivation was sincere and based on an act of love for us. How powerful is that?
Well, I believe that gift of love – from the Lord and from others— is a force which should strengthen us for those periods of our life that are difficult. Those random acts of kindness which, in the past, brought us such great joy should be like a perpetual fountain to which we return for peace, for sustaining comfort and for the strength to always move forward.
Those gifts of love give us the reason to spend the rest of our life sharing and amplifying that love in the way we spend the rest of our lives.