First Responders

A first responder will be defined here as someone who is certified and trained to respond to a medical, or any, emergency typically before higher certified medical personnel get to the scene. I have friends that are EMTs, paramedics, and nurses and all of them are highly trained to respond to multiple types of emergencies. I’m so grateful for them. First responders are generally the first ones on the scene in a medical emergency and are trained and tasked to keep the patient alive and stable before turning them over to more specialized medical attention. Essentially, their job is to respond. And their responses save lives.

I see the church and it’s beloved and flawed believers as a type of first responders in spiritual emergencies. We have been tasked and trained as ministers of a new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:4-6) to engage the world with the gospel and make disciples by teaching all men and women what has been revealed to us (Matthew 28:19-20). The message of the gospel brings peace to turmoil, hope to despair, joy to sorrow, and restoration to desolation. This is a task we have been commanded to do. When we were in our sin, drowning, unbeknownst to us, we had a God who sent us a Savior. Our God responds to hurt. And as the church, as image bearers and Christ-representers, we have been commanded to respond.

There is so much in the world to respond to. Right now I’m reading news reports of another case of racial tension, this time on a college campus, bubbling past its breaking point, spilling over into fear, hatred, racism and wrath. It’s overwhelming to be quite honest. It is when you come face to face with the true despair in the world that you see yourself as a true fragile clay jar holding the beautiful treasure of the gospel. It is very hard to not feel truly hopeless when confronted by the reality around you. And 2 Corinthians 4:7 ( “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬) is going to say that’s a good thing. Not an enjoyable thing, but good. Why? Because it reminds us that in reality we are incapable of fixing the problems around us without God; it is “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us”. We are incapable of saving ourselves, hence God sending us a Savior; how could we think we are capable of saving anyone else? Common grace has allowed us human beings, saved or not, to impact humanity in a positive way. I’m not saying that you have to be a Christian to do good for the world. But anyone who has lived long enough knows that the problems in this world are problems that are generational, deep-seated and rooted, not on the surface, but in the soul. Meaning the problems are not solely just the events that have happened but also how those events how affected us internally. Our thoughts, desires, fears and hopes. Soul wounds are only healed spiritually. God allows us to feel like jars of clay, fragile and holding onto the knowledge of the glory of God through Jesus Christ because it reminds us we are not autonomous, self-created, self-helped beings. We are everyday breathing by the sustaining grace and will of the Father. And God, in his compassion and grace, will never let us forget that.

So then how does this relate to being first responders? It should free us from the burden of fixing the problem, and allows to courageously respond to the problem. Our burden isn’t to save; our command is to engage. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to enlighten and convert; it’s my job to respond and enter into those dark spaces of life with the light of the truth and hope for a better future.

So how do you respond?

  1. In prayer – (“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
    ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬). I am very guilty of first responding in panic and anxiety when my world seems to be crashing down around me, forgetting that God is sovereign and has been, from the start, working out the plans of evil for good for my life and His glory. So pray first. It reminds us of who is actually in control.
  2. Calm down – (“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
    ‭‭James‬ ‭1:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬) There has been a lot of click-bait, “anger porn” floating around the internet these days. It’s sole purpose is to get an angry rise out of you, then to make you respond. You don’t have to look far, just take a look at the comments below any video these days. It’s depressing. And for believers, this anger doesn’t please God. Righteous anger is anger that is towards any situation that rebels against, ignores, or blaspheme the character of God. It’s anger that God isn’t getting the glory He deserves. Anger itself isn’t bad (“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
    ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:25-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬). It’s how and why we are angry and what we do with that anger that determines if it is righteous. So watch your anger and what you let anger you.
  3. Listen, then speak – (“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”
    ‭‭James‬ ‭1:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬) Listen, then speak. James says be quick to listen and slow to speak. Meaning that in all things our first response should be to listen, to actually engage and be attentive to the issues at hand. And you can’t do that if your first response is to talk. It’s not that talking is bad. But, generally, if you are talking, your aren’t listening. Listening produces an empathy inside of us towards the issue or person that allows us to respond correctly and righteously. James is going to command us to listen first, then, based on what we heard, respond. All this while being slow to anger. This is the fruit of self-control at work through the spirit. God is an attentive God who knows full well what He is saying when he speaks. He allows us the same opportunity by being slow to speak, slow to anger and quick to listen.

So as first responders, how and why are we to respond? We are to respond in a way that glorifies Christ and shows Him as righteous; because where His glory resides, there He resides. And with him comes peace, rest and restoration; something we all can agree this world needs.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Reach out and touch….Somebody’s hand!

There’s a song generally sung at black churches that has the lyrics:

“Reach out and touch/somebody’s hand/ make this world a better place/ if you can”.

I don’t know the origins of the song or if it even started off as gospel song. But it’s a simple message resonates with me today. As I look at Facebook, my text message inbox, and all my social media and I see all the wonderful things people are saying about me, I’m very touched. But it’s not just the content of the messages that makes me feel this way. It’s the action itself. The action of people taking the time out of their day to send me a message of love. In a world where we can “like”, “favorite” (which is now tragically known as a “like” as well, smh), or double tap our approval to somebody, have we lost the desire to actually reach out? Have we traded the ability to actually engage in people’s lives in a meaningful way for the convenience to push a button and keep it moving?

The song offers a simple solution to help in making the world a better place. It calls us to reach out and touch. That requires one thing: being intentional. To be intentional is to be purposeful and deliberate. Purpose nor deliberation can be lazy to truly be the essence of those words. We have the perfect example of how to be purposeful and deliberate by looking at God through sending Jesus to us. God says He is loving, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6) . And He shows that by intentionally sending Jesus (John 3:16)  to die for us and deliberately allowing Him to suffer for our sake for the purpose of reconciling all those who would believe back to him (Romans 5:10-11). God’s desire since Adam and Eve’s betrayal that led to the generational guilt of sin was to bring about a Savior to save His creation from themselves and from a life apart from Him.

We often make statements like “Love is an action” or “Love is a choice”. Well God was the first to show that. So when we as believers are choosing to be intentional in building our relationship with God, with our family and friends, with our spouses and kids, we are emulating the intentionality of God. You may be thinking “Isn’t hitting the ‘like’ button an action?”. It is, in the very basic sense of the word action. But actions are not just measured by their actuation of result, but also by the magnitude of their result. This is not a call to do away with basic social media culture and etiquette (although some of y’all could stand to learn some manners). But instead, this is just a call to check your heart and see when is the last time you have been intentional about engaging with your loved ones and friends? When is the last time you’ve chosen to write on someone’s wall a few words of encouragement or inspiration? That may not be your “thing” and you may not honestly know how to do that. I think the goal is pursuit not perfection. We are flawed human beings. We won’t be perfect, or even good, at the things we try. But we can try. We have all been in some way touched by the intentionality of someone. This is about asking ourselves, when is the last time we’ve done the same thing?

So thank you to all those who wished me a happy birthday. Regardless of the length of the comment, your intentionality to wish me a great day does not go unnoticed. Thank you. And I challenge you to find more ways of being intentional with people you love. All its takes is reaching to touch to someone to possibly make their world a better place (cheesy ending, but it’s my birthday so go with it)