Yesterday I noticed a neighbor’s boat parked by the side of his house, which is not unusual since there are a lot of boat owners where I live. Most of them are sport anglers who love the allure of trying to land highly-prized fish such as salmon and steelhead. There are many different kinds of boats, some built for lakes and others better suited for the fast waters of the wild rivers.

The reason why an object like a boat can float is because it displaces a volume of water, and if the object weighs less than the amount of water it displaces then it is buoyed upwards. A rock sinks because it weighs more then the area of water it displaces. On the other hand, a large steel ship, even though it can weigh thousands of tons, is designed so that it still weighs less than the water it pushes to the side. The displaced water exerts pressure against the ship’s sides and keeps it afloat.

While pondering the principle of floatation, I realized that there was a spiritual lesson I could learn from it. As a child of God, my new nature means that I have been separated from the world, much like the boat is separate from the water. I can float above the evil and wickedness of the world, but only as long as I displace it.

A boat made of cardboard inevitably sinks because eventually the water penetrates the cardboard, saturating its sides and dragging it under. This happens because the cardboard boat does not stay separate from the water. Similarly, if we yield to the ways of the world, giving in to sin and compromising on the ways of God, we will find ourselves sinking spiritually. To float, we must maintain the integrity of the hull, plug the holes, and prevent the water of the world from entering.

Another reason a boat can sink is if it becomes overloaded. The same can happen to us if we become inundated with worry, fear, the cares of the world, and other negative ballasts. Weights like this always seek to drop into our boats, but we can toss them overboard when we turn to God and put our hope in Him.

Friendship with the world puts us in conflict with God, and He likens it to being spiritual adulterers. But our boat will float when we separate ourselves from the ways—or “waters”—of the world. We must examine the cargo we carry and make sure that we are not allowing it to unnecessarily weigh us down. We must love those who hate us, forgive those who persecute us, and give to those who desire us harm. This is how we keep our boat afloat.