I can’t think of any job that is more physically and emotionally demanding than that of a firefighter. They run into burning buildings and they run into burning forests. They pull people out of fires. They invest their time, their life, and their emotions in trying to save lives and property. When you see them during the fight, they are usually covered with soot and exhausted, but restoring their strength to go back into the fray. They place their hearts and souls on the line every time they go out in the line of duty. There are times when building or forest fires become so dangerous that they get a signal. Instead of being able to move forward against the fire, they’re called to pull back because the dangers are so great. Most firefighters recognize that those warnings are necessary, but they hate them.
Firefighters don’t like to give up the fight, even for a short time, even for self-preservation. They became firefighters for many reasons – and pulling back to watch things burn wasn’t one of them. If the whole world were on fire, they would keep on working. As John described the events in the book of the Revelation, it seemed like the whole world was on fire. Followers of Christ continued seeking to bring others to the knowledge of Christ in the face of the physical disasters and the ongoing persecution in the world. They sought to bring about justice, even in the provinces of Rome – the Roman Empire being called “Babylon the Great.” Then, the warning came. “Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.’” (Revelation 18:4-5)
One of the dangers firefighters face working so close to the fires is that they may get burned. As Christians minister in a sinful society it is easy to accommodate and get caught up in some of those sins. The angel calls God’s people to come out of the Roman society so that they wouldn’t get caught up in the sins that prevailed in Rome. Even when they sought to stay pure in God’s eyes, it was easy when they were in Rome to do as the Romans did. Even if they stayed true to God, the plagues that were coming would envelope them as well. The time for final judgment was coming to Rome and God was calling His people out of that society. Their work was done. Nothing else could be done to change the hearts and minds of the Romans and God was going to deal with them.
As followers of Christ, we live in a society that has many problems. In recent days, a particularly odious problem has come to light: sexual harassment and assault. We have seen a Hollywood producer who once was the biggest of wigs that has now been brought down because of a reporter’s hard work. This exposé has spawned a campaign where many of those who have been victims of sexual assault or harassment posted the words “me too” on social media. Many who suffered these indignities did so while in church. It’s time to change that. It’s time to change this world. We must believe and minister to those who have been abused. We must show compassion and bring healing. At the same time, we must show the perpetrators the life-changing grace of Jesus. In the midst of a world that condemns them, we must show them that it’s possible to sin no more. God hasn’t called us out of this world yet, and until He does, we are called to work against the abuse of power, the manipulation caused by an ungodly view of sexual activity, and a society that maintains a fearful silence. The church must draw closer to God first and then speak to and on these issues. We speak the message of humility to those who would seek power. We offer a message of sexual purity to those who would abuse people by using sex as a weapon. We speak of the value of all persons to those who would treat others as useful objects.
Lord, help us to speak the truth in love. Let us bring a message of healing to the abused, and show the power to change for those who have abused others.