The life-saving station: A modern-day parable

There was once a dangerous sea-coast where shipwrecks often occurred. There was a crude little life-saving station there. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea. And with no thought for themselves, they went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost.

Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the work of the station. So they gave their time, money and effort to support it. New boats were bought and new crews were trained, and the little life-saving station grew.

Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly-equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those who were saved. So they replaced the emergency bunks with beds and they put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now it became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely because they used it as a sort of club.

Fewer members were interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do that for them. The life-saving motif was still prevalent in the club’s decoration and they had a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club initiations were held.

But one time there was a large ship shipwrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat-loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some had the wrong colour of skin. The beautiful new club was in chaos. The property committee immediately had a shower-house built outside the club where victims of ship-wreck could be cleaned up before they came inside.

At the next meeting there was split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities because they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as the primary purpose, and pointed out that they were still called the ‘life-saving station’. But they were voted down in the end and were told that if they wanted to save lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked, they could do it on their own.

Well, they did: they set up their own station. And as the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old one. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded. And history continued to repeat itself.

If you visit the sea-coast today, you’ll find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. There are frequent shipwrecks in those waters, but most of the people drown.

As told by Christopher Ash in a sermon on Genesis 12:3.

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