Recently I challenged students with this scenario:
You are one of the following four people that are the last stranded on a sinking ship. Unfortunately, there is only one small lifeboat left that holds three people. The one person who doesn’t board the last boat will certainly die. Decide which three people should board the life boat and live while the other person meets an untimely end.
– Outgoing student with good grades
– Woman who thinks she is pregnant
– Drug dealer that steals to support his habit
– Shy person you know nothing about
For starters, if you put a bunch of students in paper boats and tell them to decide which one has to get out, it makes for an interesting night. What is so interesting is to see them wrestle with the dilemma of self and others. Have you decided yet? Student, mom, dealer or the quiet one…which one should be sacrificed for others? Now ask yourself if you were one of the four, would you be willing to get out of the boat and perish for the pregnant woman? Would you struggle to die for the sake of the drug dealer?
Though an incredibly interesting case study, in the end I am not hoping to teach a lesson in ethical choices or a lesson in selfless living. I want everyone to understand a foundational truth that is explained in Romans 5
“6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (NLT)
You see it doesn’t matter who’s in the boat if Jesus is the fourth man; he always chooses to sacrifice himself to save lives. You and two of your closest friends…Jesus steps out of the boat. Three of the worst people you can imagine…Jesus willingly rides the ship down while they float with an opportunity for real life. We must understand this “great love for us” and remind ourselves regularly that “while we were still sinners” Christ died for us. The foundational truth is that no one has ever earned a spot on the boat; it is simply the gift of a loving God.
When we miss this truth, we will find ourselves living frustrated on a fragile foundation of self rather than living in the freedom of a life founded on God’s great love for us.