"For hours after their boat sank, Ken Henderson and Ed Coen treaded water in the Gulf of Mexico, talking about life and death while struggling to survive. For more than 30 hours, it worked.
"Then Henderson, 49, a retired Montgomery County sheriff's deputy, was forced to make a decision that would save his life, but not his best friend's."
That's the way the story on the front page of the Houston Chronicle began this week (3/28/12). It's not my intention to retell the story, nor do I want to exploit it in any way. But I could not read the story without making some personal reflections, especially at this time of the year when we celebrate Easter. (If you are interested in reading the story, click here.)
Ken and Ed didn't plan to make any life and death decisions that Thursday morning when they set out to sea. The only thing in jeopardy in their minds were the fish they were going to catch. But that's not the way things went.
Their boat took on water and eventually sank. The friends found themselves adrift in the cold waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Minutes turned to hours. Day turned to night. They did everything they could to keep each other alive. No one came to rescue them.
After being adrift for more than 30 hours, they made a desperate decision. Thinking it was their only chance for survival, they decided to cut the strap that bound them together so Ken could swim away to find help. Both agreed it was their last best hope. They knew it was a life or death decision.
Easter is all about life and death decisions. Judas made one when he betrayed Jesus. The religious leaders made one when they put Jesus on trial. Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas made one when they sat in judgement upon Jesus. The Roman soldiers probably thought of themselves as just following orders when they crucified Jesus, but they, too, were making a life and death decision.
No decision was more a life and death decision than Jesus' decision in the Garden of Gethsemane when he decided to fully obey the will of God and offer his life as a sacrifice for the sin of mankind. It was a matter of life and death, or, I suppose, a decision of death and life. Through his death Jesus was offering the gift of life to all who would believe. And aren't we glad he made it!!
We don't think of ourselves as making life and death decisions. That's usually the purview of doctors, judges, soldiers, and others, not us. Or is it?
When we ride the bus into work, talk to a neighbor over a backyard fence, enjoy a midday meal with a co-worker, engage in small talk on the sidelines at our kids' ball game we may be making life and death decisions. If we know the gospel and they don't, and we fail to share it with them, we could be making a life and death decision by not telling them, by not giving them the opportunity to become a Christ-follower.
Easter … what a story ... Jesus died, was buried, and three days later stepped out of his tomb … alive! ... victorious over death. It's a story of death and life. This Easter tell this wondrous story of God's love to a friend, a family member, a co-worker. It could just be a matter of life and death.
----- Houston Factoid
According to the Glenmary report, fewer than 50% of Houston residents identify themselves with any religion, and only one out of 5 identify themselves with evangelical Christianity. For the vast majority of Houstonians, hearing the gospel story is indeed a matter of eternal life or death.