The other day I happened to catch a short television interview with Robert Ballard, the man primarily responsible for discovering the wreckage of the Titanic in 1985. I was struck by Ballard’s opinion that the ocean is becoming increasingly unfriendly.
His comments quickly brought to mind the experience of a co-worker several years back. Herb and his family were vacationing along the coast, as many families in the eastern U.S. are wont to do. He waded out a short distance into the water and turned to face the beach. Herb just stood there for a while, soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the rhythmic splash of waves against his legs. Without warning, a massive rogue wave engulfed Herb, knocking him upside down and driving him into the sand. The result was a severely damaged shoulder which necessitated surgery, followed by a long and painful recovery. The sea was not so friendly on that particular day.
The Bible sometimes uses the imagery of the sea to describe humanity. I think we can all agree that the human sea is not becoming any friendlier as time progresses. There are many things we could discuss in this regard; violence in entertainment, the proliferation of drugs, and the widespread embrace of corporate greed would be just a few examples. Living in the world of media like we do, another rising trend is the demonization of those we are trying to defeat in the political arena. The result is that all Democrats promote immorality, Republicans hate the poor, conservative Christians are full of hate, and homosexuals are militants who march in parades wearing nothing but their underwear.
Just as an angry sea will over time wear down just about any sea wall, so too the cumulative effect of an angry, cold-hearted society is the increased hardness of a culture.
“Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” Matthew 24:12 (NASB)
Christians are by no means immune from being battered by the sea. In fact, we will often experience more ferocious attacks than the non-believers around us. Jesus repeatedly warned that all who desire to live for Him will be persecuted. We need to understand, however, that when people attack and accuse us, they are but pawns of the spiritual forces of wickedness ever at work our world. Whether we want to admit their existence or not, demonic forces ever seek to zap our faith, harden our hearts and blind our eyes to the kingdom of God advancing around us. And trust me, unbelief, hardness of heart, and spiritual blindness are all intricately interconnected.
As Christians we are left with a very real choice in deciding how we will respond when battered by the sea. By simply being ourselves, we choose the default response which is to become hardened, cynical, and jaded. Walking in love, on the other hand, involves (at least at first) a conscious effort. This is because the depth of love required is not naturally human. We must learn to draw upon God’s life-giving grace if we are to honor our God, preserve our families, and bless Christ’s Church through chaotic times.
How do we draw upon His grace in such circumstances? I could write a book about the topic, but for the sake of space I’ll just mention three helpful thoughts.
1. Cultivate honesty – Be brutally honest with yourself and with God about any hardness or lack of love in your heart. Spend some focused time in prayer, asking Him to do a healing and cleansing work in your heart.
2. Cultivate faith – One of the reasons our hearts become hardened and our love cold is that we don’t honestly believe that God is at work—or will work favorably—through our circumstances. We can begin to turn that tide by standing on His promises and praying for Him to open our blind eyes to who He is, and to what He is doing in and around us. It is all much more than any of us realize.
3. Cultivate love – We can choose not to speak critically of others. We can choose to lift up a compassionate prayer of faith for a person when our hearts demand that we judge. We can make a deliberate choice to forgive those who have hurt us.
All of this takes time to come to full fruition and so the need for repeated cultivation becomes clear. Over time the hard ground willingly gives way to the plow, the stones are removed and the harvest of love is increased.
The often relentless battering of the sea will either harden or polish us, with the end product being determined by our response. If we can learn to stay connected with God, abiding in His grace as a way of life, then no amount of battering can extinguish the love of God growing within our hearts.