In the Same Boat!
Written By: Chris Mace
In the distance, gulls vie for bait as they circle a lobsterman pulling his traps. In the foreground a party boat carries its passengers to a picnic. The photo captures a moment where markedly different lifestyles briefly intersect. An unnoticed man is toiling at back breaking work in a smelly old lobster boat as others are chatting and photographing each other while enjoying a leisurely ride in an almost identical but “spruced up,” private launch.
Circumstances, opportunities, preferences, resources, abilities, education, skills, and choices lead to many different ways we may live or are forced to live our lives. Despite the concept that both work and leisure were intentionally planned as God-given, good and pleasurable gifts for humanity, we delineate, label, and segregate each other by social and moral norms. Drawing on these norms, we develop images of who we believe we are, or who we would like to be, or who we want others to believe we are, or who we pretend to be! We minimize or inflate the importance of certain characteristics and behaviors. We categorize and put values on rich or poor, blue collar or white collar, scandalous or pristine, impressive or common, powerful or weak, educated or uneducated, and “local” or sophisticated. Our judgments spiral us into divisions, disappointments, envy, greed, biases, competition and arrogance, Status, wealth, power, intellect, beauty, philanthropy, and a moral lifestyle may give one a warped sense of inflated superiority and righteousness or by comparison diminish the self perceptions of those who have less or are more limited in these areas.
Jesus confronts us with a different view. He shows us a better way. There are no ethnic, racial, gender, geographic, socioeconomic or moral distinctions from God’s loving perspective. All souls are valued. Jesus noticed and encouraged the unnoticed…women, children, the poor and disadvantaged. He touched infectious lepers. He valued the immoral, forgave adulterers and prostitutes, and ate with tax collectors who were considered traitorous low life in the Jewish society of Jesus’ time.
Although we admit we have weaknesses and are imperfect, we are deeply offended at the suggestion that we are the sick and needy, that we are on par with the unclean lepers, immoral prostitutes, and offensive tax collectors, that we are the disconnected, the lost, the outcasts, the sinners in need of forgiveness regardless of our self made image, that we all fall short of righteousness and cannot save ourselves. We are those whom Jesus came to seek and save and willingly and wonderfully does so…because we are the deeply loved!
Although lifestyles may differ, our dissimilarities disappear as our manufactured, protective layers are peeled back to expose our naked core. Despite our efforts, all humanity has missed the mark of uncontaminated righteousness, of pure attitudes and behaviors, of love for God above all else and of love for neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Isaiah called us out when he said that self righteous efforts are like filthy rags in God’s eyes (Isaiah 64:6).
There are no social criteria, no righteousness requirements, no racial distinctions, no approval ratings to receive God’s mercy. There are only people to be loved and redeemed. The crucial element for us is personal belief, trust. Whether working on the lobster boat or riding in the party boat, we are all “in the same boat.” “Whosoever wills ” is welcomed into God’s grace because of Christ’s righteous sacrifice on our behalf.