In the middle of chaos, the swirling fires of political arguments and fierce battles online between combatants that feel comfortable using insults they would never actually use face to face, I think it’s time we remember that we as Christians have a hope that it is impossible for anyone else in the world to understand.
Make no mistake about this, the world and the culture it has built is a sinking ship, and I believe that everyone on that ship instinctively knows that they are going down. This explains their desperation to hold onto anything and everything that might save them, even if that only happens to be the nearest handrail of the doomed vessel.
Those of us who have chosen to step into the life rafts can find it ridiculous, I know, that those still on the ship don’t just step off and join us in safety. But the handrails have become their only source of strength, as far as they are concerned, we are heading out into empty waters in a storm, and if they come with us they will be drowned. They don’t see where we are going. It is impossible that they should.
Now, we could crawl onto the sinking ship and try to pry their death grip from the handrail, but that isn’t advisable for many reasons, the first of which being that once we leave the safety of the lifeboat, we risk being sucked into the same terror and chaos that is swallowing every other soul on board. We are, after all, only human. The second reason is that those who know they are drowning are notorious for fighting desperately to survive, so desperately that they will take anyone near them down with them.
If we refuse the enter the fray, then what? Do we simply watch as the ship goes down and say good riddance? That is an option that some have chosen, but there are better options than either joining in the chaos or watching it without intervening.
First, we pray. Yes, simple, I know. There is only one person who can convince someone to release their death grip on the world, and—surprise—it isn’t me or you or any other human being. So it might be wise of us to enlist God’s help first and foremost.
Second, we take a deep breath…and then another, until that clenching of your jaw and that burning in your soul doesn’t make you want to strangle someone. And we must remind ourselves that no matter how brilliant our apologetics, we can’t argue someone into letting go of the world. Never, ever, ever. As Alexander MacLaren put it, “You cannot argue a man into loving God, any more than you can hammer a rosebud open.” So put aside all your weighty words and superior reasoning skills and start praying again.
Third, after grounding yourself in prayer and God, start thinking about throwing out some life preservers. While you can’t make anyone let go of the handrail, you can be sure that there is a life preserver in their vicinity if they ever do choose to let go on their own. What do life preservers look like, you ask? They look something like being the person at work who genuinely cares about their colleagues. Rather than getting ready to start an argument with anyone who disagrees with your beliefs, it looks like being the one who chooses their words with patience and wisdom…and knows when just to keep their mouth shut. It looks like being the one who notices when someone is hurting or in trouble. It looks like speaking words of beauty and life when everyone else is devolving into criticism and anger. And it looks like courtesy, respect and fighting for justice for the vulnerable and broken rather than trampling them underfoot in a righteous agenda. In short, sending out a life preserver looks like a lot of prayer through every aspect of your day, because you realize if you let go, you’ll be sinking yourself.
As a side note, this doesn’t mean we never fight. It doesn’t mean that we ignore injustice or allow abuse to continue. It just means we don’t fight about it with people at work. We don’t joi in destructive riots to “make a point” about whatever it is we want to make a point about. We just do it. If we don’t believe something is right, we don’t talk about it. We move to change it and support others who are doing the same.