On March 8, 1669, on the island of Sicily in modern-day Italy, Mount Etna began to rumble and expel gas. Three days later, it began to spew out poisonous fumes and tremendous amounts of ash and molten lava. The hot lava began its slow crawl towards the city of Catania. For several weeks it continued its deadly approach, but the city was not evacuated. Townspeople tried to divert the lava away from their homes but were not successful. The lava eventually reached the city and over fifteen thousand men, women and children were killed and most of the city was destroyed. It was one of the most tragic events in the history of Italy.
It didn’t have to be such an enormous tragedy. Lives did not have to be lost. Families did not have to be shattered. Grief and sorrow did not have to appear. If only, the citizens of Catania had heeded the warnings about the approaching lava. They had weeks to evacuate. They had time to gather their most precious belongings and seek shelter elsewhere. They had ample opportunity to protect their children and elderly and move them to safety. They had time to prepare for a different outcome. They chose to stay. Their choice was tragic.
As I reflected upon this tragedy from the annals of history, I was reminded that people often show the same apathy and lack of concern towards sin. We know what we should and shouldn’t be doing. We know when we are actively engaging in sin. We know when we are neglecting those things that produce spiritual growth and nourishment in our lives. We know the thoughts we need to stop thinking and the actions we need to stop doing. We know the actions of service and love we should be offering. We know the dangers of messing around with sin and the atrophy that comes from neglecting our spiritual life. We know we can make decisions that lead to a better outcome for us. We know what we need to do. But we make the wrong decision and experience the painful consequences of chosen sin and the weakening of our faith as we fail to engage with God and our church family.
If you are currently making choices that are leading you away from God, endangering your spiritual life with Christ and harming your witness with your church family and surrounding community, I encourage you to remember the tragedy of Mount Etna. Remember the decisions or lack of decisions that were made as the lava began its slow descent. Remember the fifteen thousand lives that were lost due to apathy and negligence. They had time to prepare. They had time to move. They had time to reach safety. Their choices had tragic outcomes. Don’t let your choices have tragic outcomes. Instead, choose to do what is right, holy and honorable in the sight of God and others. Choose to be a blessing and servant to others. Choose to allow the Spirit to lead you and sustain you.
Your life doesn’t have to have a tragic end. Allow God to guide you to safety and make the decisions to honor and bless Him. We are not destined for tragedy. We are destined for glory. Let’s choose wisely. Glory is always greater than tragedy.