I have endless respect for emergency responders, those trained to deploy when time is of the essence. In most search-and-rescue missions, conditions are unpredictable and every second can make the difference between survival and disaster.
Whether it’s a mountain rescue team in a barren wilderness, a combat search-and-rescue operation, or an air/sea rescue team, these are true heroes — men and women who use all available means to locate those in distress, provide for their initial medical needs, and deliver them to a place of safety.
What a calling! And what a reflection of the Lord Himself!
History’s ultimate search-and-rescue mission was the one launched by Jesus Christ in the fullness of time. In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” In John 17:3, He said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
One dark Bethlehem night, our Savior rappelled into human history, descending from the heights of heaven into the cold of this world. He was determined to search for and rescue the lost, even at the cost of His own life. He once likened Himself to a one-man search-and-rescue mission, leaving the security of the fold to scour the mountains for one lost sheep.
And yet Jesus was opposed by the very ones He had come to save. I think it helps us to think of the work of Jesus in these terms because it conveys the life-and-death urgency we should feel. We’ve all watched heart-pounding missions portrayed in the movies or on television, and we’ve followed breaking news of dramatic rescues. We can understand the passion and urgency of such missions, and when we transfer those feelings to our own calling as soul-winners, it enhances our understanding of the need for an urgent response. After all, God is not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
Broken hearts, bleeding hearts
Your friend in the next cubical at work, the neighbor whose house sits catty-corner to yours, your nephew at the university, your workout partner at the gym — unless we have a God-given sense of urgency, many of them may not be reached. We cannot be indifferent, unresponsive, or lackadaisical. Our mission is to evangelize the world, and we are called to be responders.
Emergency responders are highly trained professionals who go into action at the right moment. I don’t believe it’s necessary for every Christian to verbally witness to everyone we meet each day or to operate with a sense of panic or perplexity. Sometimes my witness to a waiter at a restaurant is simply a warm smile, a pleasant attitude, and my bowed head as I offer thanks for my food. The apostle Peter warned his readers against trying to “nag” their loved ones into heaven. He told the wives of unsaved husbands to exhibit such a Christ-like attitude at home that their husbands would be won “without a word” by the “conduct of their wives” (1 Pet. 3:1).
On the other hand, we shouldn’t be so passive that we’re never rescuing anyone. The English Congregational pastor Dr. J.H. Jowett wrote, “The Gospel of a broken heart demands the ministry of bleeding hearts. As soon as we cease to bleed we cease to bless. … Tearless hearts can never be the heralds of the Passion.”(1)
We need an urgent burden that never flags or fails.
The times are more urgent than they have ever been, and our response is more important than ever.
Today’s emergency responders and their heroic efforts are models for us. The world needs Christians who are serious about their mission. Time is short. At any moment, the trumpet will sound, and tomorrow will be too late. It’s of utmost importance that we take the Gospel across the street and across the seas as never before. We must devote our energy to struggling souls in the darkness of a dying world like our Lord, who came to seek and to save those who are lost.
(1) Quoted by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman in “Springs in the Valley” (Los Angeles: Cowman Publications, Inc., 1939), 87, entry for March 25.