“Just breathe.”

Someone in our church family has pointed out how the two most recent national crises were both related to breathing. In the midst of fighting the Corona Virus, which attacks the lungs, we witnessed a man die at the hands of an officer, all the while pleading, “I can’t breathe.”

At our creation, God breathed into us the breath of life (Genesis 2:7), and each of us enters life with a fitful protest in which we drink in the the oxygen that sustains the blood in our arteries and veins.

Then we breathe voluntarily and involuntarily until our last breath. In fact, breath is such a part of us, it creates a backdrop to life.

“Take three deep breaths.”
“Breathe easy.”
“It took my breath away.”
“It was so cold I could see my breath.”
“His breathing returned to normal.”
“I was holding my breath until she returned.”
“Give me a minute to catch my breath.”
“He had the breath knocked out of him.”
“She was breathtakingly beautiful.”

God has built the need for oxygen into our physical bodies to illustrate and even explain our spiritual life. Jesus breathed on the disciples (John 20:22), saying “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Ezekiel is told to command the Four Winds to enter the dry bones in order to restore a dead nation (Ezekiel 37:9, 10).

In fact, Jesus’ object lesson to Nicodemus paired the unpredictable wind with God’s sovereign Spirit (John 3:5-8). Hebrew uses the same word for both “wind” and “spirit,” so no doubt Nicodemus should have remembered that well-known Ezekiel story. (That’s why Jesus told him that as a teacher, he should have known about the New Birth.)

Surely it is no accident that when Paul is explaining the Gospel to the pagans in Athens, he first tells them (Acts 17:25, 26) that God “gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth.”

As His creatures, we should remember that our destinies are tied to Him and to one another, in both Earth’s atmosphere and His Spirit’s life. Regardless of our ethnicity, His Spirit-filled children glorify Him best when we breathe grace into one another’s lives.

“Father, help us breathe in your love and breathe out gracious words, serving one another until we breathe our last. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Ephesians 5:18-21

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