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Heroes of the Costa Concordia

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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In this photo released by the Italian Coast Guard, a coast guard scuba diver makes his way through floating pieces of furniture inside the cruise ship Costa Concordia on January 15 2012 after it ran aground off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio Italy (Credit: Italian Coast Guard)

What headlines should we consider this morning?  We could talk about last night’s Republican presidential debate and continued attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record.  We could discuss reports that Mossad agents were behind the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist.  Or we could explore Wikipedia’s announcement that it will “go black” tomorrow, closing its English-language sites for a day as it protests legislation it says will threaten free expression on the Internet.

I’d rather focus on heroism in today’s news.  This morning, naval divers exploded holes in the hull of the Costa Concordia to speed their search for 29 missing people.  The ship could easily shift positions on the seabed, threatening to trap these rescuers.  The last survivor was found Sunday, but divers will continue risking their lives as they search for others.

Allison Batson a transplant floor nurse at Emory University with Clay Taber a recent Auburn University graduate (Credit: Emory University handout)Here’s my favorite story of the morning.  Allison Batson is a nurse on the transplant floor of Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.  There she met Clay Taber, a young man who is engaged to be married but was suffering from kidney failure.  She says, “It really touched my heart because I have children that are his age.  We really connected.”

Now they’re connected for life.  When his family members did not qualify to donate a kidney, she offered hers.  The transplant operation took place on January 10th.  Taber says, “I’ve got a piece of her in me and I will forever.  She will have a special dance at my wedding.”

Selfless acts make the news in part because they’re so counter-cultural.  Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” doctrine has come to dominate our politics, as candidates compete to see who can air the most damaging commercials against their rivals.  Our culture rewards the self-made person.  It tells us to “look out for #1” and “pull your own strings.”

Is this the best way to live with significance?  James Davison Hunter teaches sociology at the University of Virginia; his To Change the World is the most brilliant analysis of culture change I’ve ever read.  Dr. Hunter argues that culture doesn’t change merely by winning elections or building large churches.  His prescription: “Manifesting faithful influence.”  Find your highest influence and live there faithfully as salt and light.  Put others first today.  Choose acts of selfless service.  Show someone God’s love in yours.

Jesus taught us to “love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).  How did he love us?  Unconditionally (Romans 8:35-39) and sacrificially (1 John 4:10).  With this result: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).  Who will know you are his disciple today?