Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lifeboat Theory

I am currently reading a book by Donald Miller (who has quickly become one of my favorite authors), called Searching for God Knows What. In the book Miller describes a very interesting theory/metaphor that describes the world in which we live. He says to imagine that you were on a cruise liner (or insert your own desired catastrophe) and the ship went down and you ended up in a lifeboat with 10 other people. However, you realize after a couple hours of being in the lifeboat that the boat you are in can only safely support 10 people, so someone has to go or the boat is going to sink. You would have to spend the next amount of time trying to convince everyone in the boat that you deserve to stay in the boat. You would do whatever it takes to make others sure that you are so important that if you were to get kicked out of the boat everyone else would be so lost without you.

Now, it isn’t too difficult to see the parallels here between this hypothetical lifeboat and the world we live in each and every day. We spend so much of our lives trying to impress other people and make others think we are way more important than we really are. Some ways in which we do this is: we pack our schedules full of activities, we buy lots of things we cannot afford, we go on vacations somewhere a little more exotic than our neighbors, we work two jobs, and whenever someone asks how we have been we love to respond with a deflating sigh “busy.” It is so interesting thinking that we are doing something right be making ourselves so busy and filling our lives with so many things we don’t really want only to prove to some people that we don’t really care about that we are just a little more important than we actually might be. Most people try to align themselves with people who are really important so as to give more credibility and value to themselves. And since we are living on a hypothetical lifeboat we have to impress the people who are on the lifeboat with us because we are only as valuable to the lifeboat as the other people on it decide that we are; and if there is a unanimous vote that we are the weakest link, then we are forced to exit the boat, falling to our demise.

The good news is that we are not living on a lifeboat and we were never intended to have to prove our value to anyone else. We simply have value because of who created us. We have been given a value so much higher than we could ever convince anyone that we have since the time we were constructed in the womb. All humanity has value because of the one who created them. The same reason a symphony written by Mozart has more ears perk up than any sort of music I were to produce (aside from the fact people cringe when I produce music) is because the person who created the music gives it its value. The same is true with you and me: people should be turning their heads when they see us living our lives because the one who created us instills in us so much value that we don’t have to play the game the rest of the world is playing. We don’t have to live life as if we were sitting in a lifeboat trying to decide who was going to have to swim.

Jesus came to destroy that kind of thinking. The kind of thinking that says, “I have to get ahead, even if that means making the people around me look bad, or at least a little bit worse than I look.” He was so interesting because the people of high positions that thought Jesus should spend his time with them were only frustrated by him because he spent all of his time telling them they needed to care more about the people who weren’t going to get them any further in life. Jesus said those who make themselves last are the ones who will be first in the Kingdom of God. That takes the whole Lifeboat Theory and flips it upside down. Apparently Jesus didn’t think life should ever consist of trying to prove yourself inside of a lifeboat.

This next paragraph is an excerpt from the book and it raises some interesting questions about what we believe about Jesus. If it offends you, I am a little sorry, but not too much, because I hope that it inspires who to get to know Jesus for who He really is. You don’t have to, but ignoring the real Jesus doesn’t make Him any less real or His words any less true.

“Is Jesus sitting in the lifeboat with us, stroking our backs and telling us we are the ones who are right and one day these other infidels are going to pay, that we are the ones who are going to survive and the others are going to be thrown over because we are Calvinists, Armenians, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics; because we are Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals; because we attend a big church, a small church, an ethnically diverse church, a house church, ; or is Jesus acting in our hearts to reach out to the person who isn’t like us—the oppressed, the poor, the unchurched—and to humble ourselves, give of our money, build our communities in love, give our time and our creativity, get on our knees before our enemies in humility, treating them as Scripture says as people who are more important that we are? The latter is the Jesus of Scripture; the former, which is infinitely more popular in evangelical culture, is a myth sharing a genre with unicorns.”

This all is a tough bit to swallow and hits you a bit like cold water hitting your face early in the morning. However, I am convinced that the only way to experience this “life more abundant” that Jesus talks about is to live life outside of the lifeboat and realize that our value comes from our Creator and our Creator’s heart beats for humanity.