God is a Firefighter

By Stephanie Ismer

It has been hot this week in Colorado Springs. Sweltering temperatures, broken air conditioners and a dry thirsty heat were just the beginning. Then the outbreak of numerous fires in the forests nearby filled our normally fresh skies with a thick dust-colored cloud. We started to see herds of frightened deer and rabbits running past our houses, and soon frightened evacuees were running into the arms of friends on the East side. The sight of those red flames eating up our familiar hills and neighborhoods is more than unsettling.

Authors sometimes use the weather to reveal a character's feelings and state of mind, and sometimes God uses the world around us to reveal us to ourselves. Yesterday as I stared up at the burning hills I felt grief for my friends and neighbors who were losing their homes. But there was something else there too. The sight of the fire was like an expression of the pain in my own heart.

Sin is a destructive force, like a fire. One careless, casual action — a word, a glance, a cigarette tossed from the window — can turn into something uncontrollable that might burn down your house. I have no wish to exaggerate, or propagate guilty fears, but it's true that sin usually starts out small. It begins with desire. "Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." James 1:15

That seems a bit hopeless, doesn't it? Sin is so destructive, and so difficult to control. And yet it begins with something so common and natural to us: desire. Our responses, feelings, wants and emotions. Do the Buddhists have the right idea after all? Is the only way to avoid destructive paths in life to be entirely passionless?

And if we don't take the Buddhist path, how do we avoid becoming paranoid and legalistic? You'd better not meet new people, because every affair begins with hello. You'd better not have opinions, because that could lead to violence. You'd better not get a job, because you might become a workaholic and start neglecting your family. For that matter, you'd better not care about your family too much because let's face it: most of the sins we commit are prompted by conflicts with people we care about.

Sin is like any natural disaster. It happens right where we build our houses. And no matter where we build our houses, it will find us. So what's the solution?

Evacuees from the Waldo Canyon fire will tell you about the feeling of helplessness that comes when you stand and watch a wall of red flame advancing on your home. And many of them would also tell you about the gentle but commanding voices of police officers and firefighters saying: "You need to get out of this area. We'll do everything we can to save your house."

Facing my own walls of flame, I've heard the Holy Spirit saying the same kind of thing. There is the command to leave my sinful behaviors behind. And then the promise that he'll do everything in his power to protect what is precious to me. I don't believe that the latter is dependent upon the former. I have seen him graciously protect me even when I was unrepentant. But staying in the mandatory evacuation area is a bad idea. And if I choose to stay near to my sin, I may get burned.

I suppose I'm sharing these thoughts to encourage anyone else out there who is struggling with sin. Look at it. Watch the flames, and feel its power. It's too big for you, and you know it. But God is a firefighter. And when sin comes roaring into our lives, blown by winds of desire, we're totally dependent on his sacrifice, skills and bravery. All we need to do is get out of the way.

Image Credit: Airman Magazine; "Untitled"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth Christian-Life Sin-Evil

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Published 6-8-12; Revised on 2-2-15