Life At Sea on the Good Ship “Fellowship” (Mar – Apr 1996)

By Matt Dabbs

by Max Lucado
March – April, 1996

Best I can figure the situation reads something like this.

God has enlisted us in his navy and placed us on his boat. The boat has one purpose — to safely carry us to the other shore.

This is no cruise ship; it’s a vessel of battle. We aren’t called to vacation; we are called to service. Each of us has a different task. Some are concerned with the drowning, snatching people from the water. Others are occupied with the enemy, manning the cannons of prayer and proclamation. Still others are devoting themselves to the crew — its feeding and its training.

We are different, but we are the same. We share a common memory. Each can tell of a personal encounter with the Captain. For each has received a personal call. He found us among the shanties of the seaport and invited us to follow Him. Our faith was born at the sight of His fondness, and so we followed.

And here we are. All on one boat. One Captain. One destination. Though the battle is fierce, the boat is safe, for our Captain is God. The ship will not sink. Of that we need not fear, there is no need for concern.

There is, however, concern regarding the disharmony of the crew. When we first boarded we thought the crew was made up of a few like us. But as we’ve wandered these decks we’ve encountered curious converts with curious appearances. Some wear uniforms we’ve never seen. Others speak with accents we’ve never heard. “Why do you look the way you do?” we ask them.

“Funny,” they reply, “we were about to ask the same of you.”

The variety of dress is not nearly as disturbing as the plethora of opinions. Some think once you’re on the boat, you can’t get off. Others say it’d be foolish to go overboard, but the choice is yours. Some believe you volunteer for service, others believe you were destined to be here before the ship was even built. Some feel a storm of great tribulation will strike before we dock, others say it won’t hit until we are safely ashore.

There are those who think the officers should wear robes, there are those who think there should be no officers at all, and there are those who think we are all officers and should all wear robes.

And then there is the weekly meeting at which the Captain is thanked and his ship’s log is read. All agree on the meeting’s importance, but few agree on its nature. Some want it loud, others quiet. Some want ritual, others spontaneity.

The result? Trouble on deck. Sometimes this boat can be an unsteady place. Fights have broken out. Sailors have refused to speak to other sailors. There have even been times when one group refused to acknowledge the presence of others on the ship.

“What do we do?” we’d like to ask the Captain. “What do we do with people with whom we disagree?”

The heart of his answer is found in the Captain’s final prayer. On the last night of his life, Jesus prayed a prayer that stands as a citadel for all Christians.

Father I pray for these followers, but I am also praying for all those who will believe in me because of their teaching. Father, I pray that they can be one. As you are in me and I am in you, I pray that they can also be one in us. Then the world will believe that you sent me (John 17:20).

How precious are these words! Jesus, knowing the end is near, prays one final time for his followers. Jesus asked for their unity. He didn’t pray for their success, for their safety, or for their happiness. He prayed for their unity — that they love each other.

As he prayed for them, he also prayed for “those who will believe because of their teaching” (John 17:20). That means us! In his last prayer Jesus prayed that you and I be one!

Unity matters to God. If unity matters to God, then shouldn’t unity matter to us? If unity is a priority in heaven, then shouldn’t it be a priority on earth? Shouldn’t we, as Paul said, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3)?

That is not to say we won’t and don’t have differences. But if God can tolerate our differences and our mistakes, can’t we tolerate a few from each other? If God can overlook my errors, can’t I do the same with your errors? If God allows me, with my foibles and failures, to call him Father, shouldn’t I extend the same grace?

If God doesn’t demand perfection, should I?

“They are God’s servants,” Paul reminds, “not yours. They are responsible to him, not to you. Let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. And God is able to make them do as they should” (Romans 14:4).

There is a common deck on this boat on which we can all stand. We can “bunk” with whomever we choose—probably those who are like us — but when the Captain calls all hands on deck to battle the enemy, it’s time to leave opinions and personal preferences behind and stand together.

Jesus’ final prayer before his disciples was that we be one (John 17:21). Would he offer a prayer which couldn’t be answered? I don’t think so.Wineskins Magazine

Max Lucado

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1584 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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