As I sit at my desk, I'm looking at a framed, century-old newspaper on the wall. It's there because I never want to forget the story it tells. And the choice it represents.
In short, it's the tale of three ships.
Everyone knows the Titanic. The one that 2,200 passengers thought was unsinkable. But that fateful night in the icefields of the North Atlantic, the Titanic went down. Over 1,500 passengers died. Only about 700 survived.
Their only hope was a rescue.
Only about ten miles away, SS Californian saw the flares from the endangered Titanic. Captain Lord decided it was too risky to try to reach her in the dark.
The Californian stayed where she was.
The Carpathia was a daunting 58 miles away when they spotted the flares and heard the distress calls. There were some 700 passengers on board that night as Captain Rostron gave his fateful order - "Mr. Dean, turn this ship around."
Captain Rostron ordered that all heat be turned off so all power could be directed to the ship's engines. The Carpathia's maximum speed was supposed to be 14.5 knots. She averaged 17 knots as she steamed toward Titanic's last known location. On the captain's orders, rooms were converted to infirmaries, hot food and drink were prepared and lifeboats readied.
Somehow, the Carpathia navigated around a deadly field of icebergs in the dark. Later, Captain Rostron would say that it was as if an unseen hand was guiding them.
But his heart sank when he arrived at the site, only to find no trace of the mighty Titanic. What he did find was 20 lifeboats, carrying those 700 survivors. Whose lives were in jeopardy from hours of exposure to the cold.
Had it not been for the Carpathia's courageous intervention, there might have been no survivors.
The Titanic. The ship where people thought they were safe - that, in reality, was the ship of death. Where their only hope was a rescue.
The Californian. The ship that was within reach of the dying people - but did nothing to save them.
The Carpathia. The ship that did whatever it took to rescue the dying. No matter the risks.
We all either are - or were - on the Titanic. Because God says, "Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard," and "the wages of sin is death." But "Jesus gave His life for our sins...in order to rescue us" (Romans 3:23, 6:23; Galatians 1:4). Our eternal destiny depends on our reaching for the Rescuer.
Some of us who have been rescued by Jesus are like the Californian. We have spiritually dying people within our reach. And the command of God is to "rescue those being led away to death" (Proverbs 24:11).
But we're doing nothing. It's too risky. All our fears are about what might happen to us if we tried to rescue them.
But some of us are the Carpathia. More concerned about the dying people than ourselves. Doing whatever it takes to save them.
Like our Jesus. Recognizing that we are under orders to "snatch others from the fire and save them" (Jude 23).
The tale of three ships confronts me - and all of us - with a soul-searching question. Even a life-or-death question.
"Which ship am I on?"