Time to get in the boat
We first published these thoughts in 2009. Now, in the wake of Sandy Hook, the gun control debate and the acellerated warnings about global warming, they seem even more more relevant today. The story involves an apocryphal flood and a man trapped on the roof of his house by the raging waters.
All through the day and night the man prayed to the Lord to save him. At dawn, with the flood few feet below the roof, a neighbor came by in a rowboat and offered the man a ride to shore.
“No thanks,” said the faith-filled man, “I’ve been praying. The Lord will save me.”
The day passed, the waters kept rising and the man kept praying.
In the morning, another boat arrived offering to rescue the man but he declined, re-affirming his faith that the Lord would save him.
On the third day only the ridgeline was above water and the man was knee-deep in the flood. A helicopter descended from the sky and dropped the man a rope.
“I’m OK,” he shouted, declining the offer, “My Lord will take care of me.”
On the last morning of his life, the man clung to the top of his chimney while the flood waters raged over his roof.
“Oh God,” he screamed as he was swept away, “why hast thou forsaken me.”
The heavens parted and a deep voice spoke.
“Forsaken you? Whoa! I sent you a rowboat. You ignored it. I sent a second boat. You ignored it too. Finally I sent you a helicopter. You refused to take it. Listen – if you won’t accept a little responsibility, you’re on your own.”
Welcome to the central dilemma of religious faith: who’s really in charge here?
Some believers argue that, rather than curse the darkness, we should pray for light.
Others suggest we should simply light some candles or, better yet, install solar panels on the roof.
Whatever your beliefs, common sense suggests that, if the ship is sinking it’s fine to pray, but if you’ve got a bucket you better bail.
Some people still resist the evidence, but now 97 percent of the world’s scientists agree that, not only is the planet overheating, but it’s getting hotter faster than anyone previously thought. So, from Sonoma to Singapore, if we don’t immediately reduce the discharge of greenhouse gasses, the results will likely be catastrophic.
Likewise, after a year of extraordinary gun carnage two things are clear: evil does walk the world and prayer alone won’t stop it. Common sense says some degree of greater gun control is needed. And, if we explore our hearts honestly, we may discover that, in small ways and large, some of that evil emanates from within us. Perhaps original sin is simply the absence of enough love and compassion in our lives.
Which could mean that global salvation is already in our hands – if we choose it, if we take love over hatred and fear, compassion and common sense over indifference and greed.
It has been said that all we need to know is already before us. The boats have been sent. The helicopter is hovering overhead. The 13th verse of First Corinthians may say it all.
“If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing … faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
It’s time to get in the boat. Happy holidays.