To be honest I got sick of the constant Titanic coverage over the last month and slightly worried about the “taste” of producing things like “Titanic Teddies” to commemorate (read make money from) a disaster which claimed the lives of over a thousand people. So I am loathed to add to the vast number of words which have been written about the Titanic recently despite the fact very few people will read this. However some words from Jesus I read this morning brought my mind right back to the whole iceberg + big ship = disaster subject.
Luke 6:43-45″You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.
The big lesson from the Titanic disaster was that its what’s below the waterline, below the surface that sinks the ship. The focus of attention on the Titanic was with how it looked. its size, the opulence of its restaurants and ball rooms, the amazing luxury of the first class cabins, the every so trendy and tasteful decor for the period. No one really paid proper attention to what was below the waterline, critically not even the ships designers. Below the waterline was a series of watertight compartments which were meant to give the Titanic its “unsinkable” nickname. Events showed that the ship was far from unsinkable because water could cascade over the top of the watertight compartments and once enough of them had flooded the ship, and its passengers would be doomed. If someone had spent as much time looking at the watertight compartments as they did to creating that amazing staircase in the ballroom maybe they would have seen the problem and saved the ship. It was the same with the iceberg, it wasn’t the bit the look outs eventually spotted that tore a whole in the ship, it was the 80-90% of the iceberg that lay below the surface.
So the big lesson of the Titanic is that its what lies below the surface that sinks the ship, so you had better pay priority attention to that area if you don’t want a disaster. The reason my mind went to the Titanic was because Jesus is essentially saying the same thing, not about transatlantic liners but about human beings. Jesus says that whatever we do, “above the surface” in the public realm of our life, for good or bad, is the direct product of what is going on, “below the surface” of our lives in the private realm of our character. According to Jesus, ultimately who we are will express itself in what we do, so our priority should be on who we are, our character. Character expresses itself in conduct, so you had better pay attention to your character unless you want your life to go down like the Titanic seems to be Jesus most basic idea here.
It seems to me that this is one of those occasions where Jesus is on a collision course with our culture and has something very direct to say to those of us who are His disciples. We live in an age of superficiality, an age which is obsessed and impressed by the “above the waterline” stuff. Our magazines, tv and cinema cultivate a culture that is fixated by how people look, how famous they are, how much they own, how much they earn etc. Hello magazines does endless features about the homes of the famous but is largely silent about the character of those who live in those homes. Virtually nothing is said about character, about honesty, integrity, compassion, love, sacrifice, the “below the line” stuff. In fact, amazingly many politicians argue that their private life and public life shouldn’t be connected. It doesn’t matter if they lie to and cheat their spouse, we are meant to believe that says nothing about who they are “below the waterline.” Let me say, two words to make sure those of us who are Christ followers don’t start feeling Jesus words apply only to those outside the church, Ted Haggard. Ted built a tremendous church in Colorado Springs and people only looked at what was happening “above the waterline” It seems like no one, including Ted spent time looking at what was below the surface, the result? A personal, family and Church disaster of Titanic proportions. I have seen that same scenario repeated in so many other leaders lives and churches.
Tim Elmore writes about this Many people make into the limelight and neglect their character. Your skill can get you to the top — but its your character that will keep you there. If you don’t have character you will eventually sabotage your leadership. You can only fake it so wrong
So I am going to do something to remember the Titanic, its not going to be buying a Titanic Teddy or going to see the 3D version of the Titanic film, I am not going to buy any books about the disaster either. What I am going to do, is follow Jesus advice and spend some time examining what’s below the waterline of my life, I am going to take a serious look at what’s happening where you don’t get to see, the level of my character. Maybe if enough of us do that the Titanic disaster could prevent many more personal disasters.