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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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