My first week or two after I "came aboard" the Mt Mac were all about finding my way around in the confined environment. Although there were shipboard diagrams in all the passageways I still had to learn how to get to where I needed to go. But, that lasted only a few days because its a lot like learning to speak another language, hands-on practice is the key to rapid skill development.
This week it all came back to me in waves as I watched a show on the National Geographic channel about the USS Ronald Reagan, our nations newest aircraft carrier. The one hour special held me totally spellbound because as they toured the enormous ship (the length of two football fields) interviewing some of the crew and discussing the ships primary purpose and how each division contributed to that purpose, I was in awe of the commitment of the men and women who proudly serve our country. It is so different than the two aircraft carriers I had been on, for one thing when I was in the Navy there were no women aboard any naval ships at sea.
It also made me think of our mission as disciples of Jesus.
There is a universe of difference between a "warship" and a "cruise ship". Having been on two pleasure cruises and numerous warships, I can surely testify to the fundamental differences. Every person aboard a US Navy warship has a single purpose carried out in many different ways. You never lose sight of that purpose regardless of what job you perform. There is always an acute awareness of why you're there and how what you do affects that ultimate purpose. But, on a pleasure cruise, most of the people on board are there to relax, eat well, play games and just have fun.
In my 50+ years of ministry in the kingdom I have met more Christians who think they are on a pleasure cruise than realize they are riding a warship with a singular purpose. For many well meaning people, church is about socializing, potlucks dinners and weddings, none of which is bad or wrong. UNLESS, we forget that we are at war every day with an enemy that never sleeps or fails to carefully watch and listen.
Jesus has called us to PARTICIPATE in the singular mission he came to set in motion, a mission that God had planned before he even spoke our world into existence. That mission can include those activities that draw us closer together as family, but those activities can never become a substitute for the mission. We MUST NEVER allow our attention to be diverted away from HIS mission by political, social or spiritual division. Jesus is always Lord, his word is always law and his love is always our prime motivator.
You may think this a weird parallel but for me, the sight of that flag flying every day off the fantail of the ship was a reminder of what I was about. In a similar way the Bible is a daily reminder of God's love for all his human creation and how desperately he longs to see all of us in his kingdom. Every day when I see his word and pick it up, I remember that I'm not on a pleasure cruise, but a very special kind of warship. HALLELUJAH!