Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Titanic Love

I thought I'd share some thoughts I've been having about the Titanic. Yes, the ship that sank in the Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic was "unsinkable" by all estimations of the day. But on April 14, 1912, the ship struck an iceberg. Within three hours, all that was left of the Titanic was around 700 people in lifeboats. The rest of the roughly 2200 people on board succumbed to the icy waters. The book A Night to Remember is a good read for more information.

I think there are some huge lessons from the Titanic tragedy, and every tragedy for that matter. But here's one lesson for couples to consider. The people on board the Titanic had a crisis thrust upon them that demanded their immediate and ongoing attention. They had no choice but to deal with it. The supreme question of the the evening was who gets on the lifeboats and who drowns. There were no other pressing decisions to be made that night.

Love is different in a crisis than in every day normal life. Couples in Iowa could go to bed the night of April 14 and enjoy intimate love with each other. Men in Australia could work in the factory to lovingly provide for their families as the Titanic sank. Love looks one way in the daily grind and another way in a crisis. What would we think of a man who wanted his new bride to sneak below for some intimacy while the life boats filled on deck? Would he be loving to his wife? Maybe in normal life, but not in a crisis. He'd be at best stupid, and at worst a selfish jerk.

How do we understand a text of Scripture like 1 Corinthians 7:26-31: "I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away."

I think we have a difficult time understanding a text like this because we don't understand what happened when Christ came to earth. In the same way that the Titanic struck an iceberg, the cross of Jesus Christ struck the world. The cross of Jesus Christ is the most catastrophic event to ever happen in the world. It makes the Titanic look like a walk in the park. The whole New Testament is written in a tone of voice that can only be described as "crisis-mode" when you actually stop and think about it.

Why are husbands supposed to live as though they have no wives? Why are those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it? The apostles, and especially Paul, obviously thought that Christians should live in crisis mode rather than daily grind mode. It's the only way texts like this make sense. It doesn't make sense for someone living in daily grind, non-emergency mode to reorient his life in such a way that his wife might feel less than provided for. But it makes perfect sense if Paul sees the whole world in a mode of crisis.

We don't have a sense of the weight of glory that happened at the Gospel. Paul says, "The present form of this world is passing away." Do you understand what he's suggesting? It's no less disturbing than "The watertight compartments are filling more quickly than we can pump it out." What does that mean? DEATH IS COMING. Your decisions, all the ones you'd like to be able to make, have just been narrowed down for you. Are you getting on a life boat or going down with the ship?

The Gospel is God's judgment on the world. On the cross, the world was reconciled to God. God judged the sin of all who would believe in him on the cross. And he declared guilty all who wouldn't believe in him on the cross. This world is going down like the Titanic. It has not been business as usual for two thousand years, or roughly two days in God's time. We are in the last days, and the end is imminent. It took the Titanic three hours to sink. How many days will it take God to call out his elect?

Christian couples can rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic all day long. They can do all they can to make sure the death of those around them is as comfortable as possible. And some might even call it loving. "Can I get you another drink, Mrs. Smith, before the table collapses beneath us?" Or some might call it foolish. Are you loving in daily grind mode or crisis mode?

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