Three Ships: Stealing a Metaphor

I’ve been struggling over this post for some time, but it won’t go away.  Finally this metaphor popped into my head, something I’d read that just gelled for me.  So I’m stealing it – I think this will be a familiar passage for most of my readers.

In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis compares the three parts of morality to ships in a navy.

“The voyage will be a success only, in the first place, if the ships do not collide and get in one another’s way; and, secondly, if each ship is seaworthy and has her engines in good order. …. Thirdly, with the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for:  what course the whole fleet ought to be on…”

I feel like much of the conservative writing that I read emphasizes the first priority – social order.  We should set up society so This and That are the Way Things Go.  Generally speaking, I don’t disagree with the This and Thats… I’m conservative and Christian myself, and my morality is, thus, Biblically based.   I would be delighted to live in a society full of believers, and daydream about it from time to time.

But my contention is that society is now full of (to steal Lewis’ metaphor) ships that are so badly damaged that they can’t sail, or captained by folks who think that steering around in circles is the best fun.   And if they run into someone else and damage things?  Well, c’est la vie and someone else should fix the mess.

And Lewis has reminded me, some of the reason that we have folks using their ships to do donuts on the high seas is that we don’t have a common goal.   This fleet isn’t going in a common direction.

How can we have a common direction when we have two fleets?  One sails for our King, the other sails for the ruler of this world.  And half of the latter fleet flies a false flag, pretending to be on our King’s business.   It is even further confusing because while their ruler is our enemy, they themselves are not – and our goal is not to sink their ships but to convert them to the rulership of our King.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I am a woman, and I belong to a church that emphasizes individual relations to Christ.  What I posit is that if we would obey 1 Peter 3, and start running our own ships properly, and then sail them according to His direction, we would find that much of the second problem – ships running into other ships – would sort itself out.

1 Peter 3:1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.  …. 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

To put it more bluntly, if our relationship with Christ is right and tight, if we love Him and keep His commandments (John 14:15) , then our cities and counties and states will be better places to live in, and to raise families.  Our lives will be more beautiful, and our hearts will be filled with His light.  And then, since we are on course and not sinking, our ultimate mission becomes easier.  And the more of us that *are* right and tight with our Lord, the more of us who are concerned with our personal walks with God, the more folks will see how we sail.  Not with words, but with actions.  And then, does our Lord not return this century, maybe we can get society back on an even keel.

We can’t force the other fleet to sail the way we want them to, but we can get them into our fleet, help repair the damage of past folly, and instruct them in the ways of our King.  In so doing, our King’s fleet becomes larger, stronger, and everyone’s lives become better.

The change starts within.

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2 thoughts on “Three Ships: Stealing a Metaphor

  1. Elspeth

    Been mulling this one for a bit, as I have spent more than enough time spinning in circles myself in the not too distant past. It kind of stings to admit it, but there you go. It inhibits growth.

    I was listening to Dr. McGee today and he made a point about how he changed course in his ministry, and knew he didn’t want to be (paraphrasing as best I can remember) a preacherette, giving sermonettes, to Christianettes. I laughed out loud, but he was on to something. Something deep.

    Still pondering.

    Reply

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