I was awakened this morning by the sound of passing sirens. I realize that some may laugh, jaded by the experience of sirens passing every few minutes, but around here it's a rare occurrence. I live in a rural area, off the state highways. My road is actually a "main county road" -- which means that many people use it as a way to get to town. At harvest time, most every tractor and hopper wagon within twenty miles passes by the homestead on the way to the grain elevator in town, towing bushels and bushels of corn, wheat and soybeans. I haven't always lived in the sticks, but it's where I like best. Lots of natural beauty and lots of peace and quiet (except for the aforementioned harvest time). But that peace and quiet was shattered this morning.
Whenever we hear sirens there is a natural curiosity as to where the vehicles are headed. It's always best if the sound continues after it passes so we know it's not our house on fire! This morning we craned our necks to see down the road about a mile to the scene of an accident. The snow of yesterday had been compressed and polished to slippery ice on the roadway and two vehicles found that out the hard way. I saw the ambulance drive off, but I don't know if anyone was hurt badly. But I naturally began to wonder about all those times when my family, friends, or even I went through that intersection without incident. The folks in those two cars had probably crossed that junction countless times also. But this time. . .
Are we truly just one freak happening away from our lives being changed forever? Or even one heartbeat away from our lives being over? There's always that possibility. Preachers for years have used that "threat" as an impetus to get people thinking about salvation. Jonathan Edwards used to get people worked up into a lather of fear and trepidation while preaching sermons like "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God," where he drew the picture of a fuming Almighty holding people over the fire and brimstone of hell with every right to chuck them to their everlasting punishment. Is fear a proper motivator to get a person to consider Jesus Christ? Is it ethical to "scare someone into the Kingdom?"
I don't like to use that tactic at all. To me, one should come to Christ because she wants to, not simply out of fear of being punished. That said, I personally know people who told me that the whole reason they called on Jesus to save them is because they were scared of going to hell if they didn't make that decision. Would any of these individuals have become Christian if someone or something hadn't frightened them to death? I suppose there's no earthly way of telling. And I'd sure hate to be the one who missed the chance to bring them to Christ just because I didn't want to do it that way. Perhaps it is the only way to reach some people.
Yet at the same time, someone being pushed into the Kingdom by fear isn't always the most motivated to discipleship. Sincerity is not often the companion of panic. And for a faith which tells us to "pick up our cross and follow," those making a quick and hasty decision have a lot of maturing to do to understand what Christ is calling us to.
Still on the other hand (this may be the third or fourth hand by now), it is a very real possibility that we may not make it until tomorrow. When I posted yesterday about how suddenly a heart could go on "vacation", I had no idea just how literally true those words would soon be. This morning a lady I know was being taken to the doctor for a follow-up appointment. She has been through a couple of surgeries, but was making real progress. Then as she walked in the doctor's office less than two hours ago, her heart stopped. She's gone. It's not as horrible since she knew Christ (and certainly knows Him even better now!), but the lesson remains -- life is temporary. There is a reason we aren't supposed to put off this decision. After all, to paraphrase an old Steven Wright joke, you don't know when you're going to die unless your birth certificate comes with an expiration date.
I love this line from a song by Todd Agnew: "If you tarry 'till you're better, you will never come at all." Because I have seen this phenomenon of "waiting until I'm better" played out in the lives of folks who never came at all, this especially hits home. Maybe, sometimes, it takes being awakened by sirens to rouse a heart before it stops. But if you come to escape the fire, realize that there's a whole lot more going on in Christ, and don't be afraid to take this journey of walking in His footsteps through earthly life and into life everlasting. It's more than you could ever dream.