THE LIFEBOAT THEORY

Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What) proposes that we all act as if we are in a cultural lifeboat, in which permission to remain in the boat depends upon the approval of the majority in the boat. This requires us to jockey for relative position, presenting ourselves as being more valuable to the group than others.

This would include attempting to be more valuable to the group because we make more money, or because we know more people, or because we are better looking, more influential, more entertaining. This is consistent with the error that the disciples made in asking Jesus “who is the greatest in the kingdom,” and Jesus chastisement of them that we can’t believe because we receive glory from each other and not from him. What those who live according to the lifeboat theory don’t realize is that satisfying the other occupants of a boat in a shipwreck situation might be useful, when those occupants decide whether you will remain as a potential survivor or as lunch.

But life, as it were, is not that situation. Sure, we need rescuing. But it is not the others in the boat that determine whether we stay long enough to meet the rescuers. That determination belongs only to God, who determines which ones are in the boat to begin with. So satisfying our fellows is not important, but satisfying God is. And the only way to satisfy God is to rest in the satisfaction made by Another, Jesus Christ.

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