Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments received 36,416,000 calls to respond in 2020. That included over 23 million for medical aid, 1,388,500 for fires, 750,000 for hazardous materials, and 5,938,500 for other hazardous conditions (NFPA Study). While a relatively small percentage of calls are actually to fires, firefighters leave with a mindset to save a life every time they respond to a call. A study by Hylton Haynes finished in November 2017 for NFPA research, there are 29,067 fire departments in the United States (NFPA Study II). With the total U.S. population above 330,000,000, that’s over 11,000 people for every fire department. But, no community would feel safe without trained firefighters living there. If we could pick the way we died, I can’t imagine any of us would choose death by fire.
Jude paints a dramatic picture in verse 24 of his short epistle, calling on Christians to “save others, snatching them out of the fire.” That fire is “the punishment of eternal fire” (7). We are talking about a fire which God prepared for the devil and his angels (Mat. 25:41), but will use to punish the spiritually ignorant and the disobedient (2 Th. 1:7-8). It is unquenchable (Mark 9:43). It is a lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15) that burns (Rev. 21:8). While it is hard to imagine that any would choose that fate, Scripture says the majority will (cf. Mat. 7:13-14; 25:46). So, God enlists you and me as volunteer firefighters. The thing with this fire is that people do not experience tangible warnings of it through their skin or lungs, telling them that this fire is encroaching. The only way to perceive this is with the heart, mind, and the eyes of faith. God is counting on us to appeal to those in danger through these means. God has given us the firefighting equipment we need through His Word and our lives as living examples of that Word. Though many incredibly do not want to be rescued, others do! The exhortation is to “snatch” those in danger of fire, to “grab or seize suddenly so as to remove or gain control; to snatch or take away” (BDAG 134). We cannot forcibly rescue anyone, but we must remain vigilant to pull out of the fire all who would welcome our intervention.
Society still holds firefighters in high regard and few if any argue against the need for their existence. It is good for us to remember how God regards His children who are firefighters and how much He is relying on us to stay at that job (Dan. 12:3; 1 Cor. 1:21; Jas. 5:19-20)! Let’s keep working on our skills and improving our abilities to “save others, snatching them out of the fire.” Those rescued will be eternally grateful!