This is the summer of wildfires. Idaho has had many and everywhere you drive, you see blackened and scarred land. This black land is now in stark contrast to the tawny brown grasses of late summer.
A few nights ago, I watched a column of smoke rising on a far distant ridge. It was huge, and curled up like a great serpent over the ridgeline. I couldn’t see any flames; only the huge plume was visible. It caused the sunset to be a marvelous pinkish orange and the clouds were an interesting blend of bluish hues and pink.
Before we had our fire, I would have looked upon the fire rather disinterestedly. I would have enjoyed the colors of the sunset, and worried only mildly about the fire—it was far away and the firefighters were on hand to get it put out.
But now that I have been part of a fire, I no longer see it the same. I am no longer a curious spectator, seemingly unaffected by what I am observing. Now I worry deeply about how much of the area will burn and if anyone is in danger. How long will it burn and how much destruction will it bring are the questions that now run through my anxious mind. I worry if it will travel over the hills and affect our little town.
The air is filled with smoke, and the smoke has settled into the valley below us. The visibility is horrible, and it is dangerous for people with respiratory problems. This fire feels like an angry neighbor that has moved in, whose erratic behavior is cause for alarm.
The fire is no longer an event “out there”—it feels immediate and menacing.
I thought about our walk in the Lord, and how sin is quite similar to a fire. We all have experienced sin, but once we are in Jesus, it doesn’t look the same.
The things that used to not bother us—well, now they do because the Spirit of God is in us, giving us a new perspective. It’s interesting to read to Scripture what happens we are born anew in Him: “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:15-17).
We now don’t see sin the same, the world the same, nor each other the same. We see Christ for who He is—the very One sent by God to save us and give us new life. Sinning means separation from God—why would we want to be away from the One we love? Sin isn’t pretty—yes, it’s fun, “for a season,” but then the wings it promises are replaced with shackles and we come into bondage. The consequences of sin can be devastating, and can even take our lives. We now see sin for what it is: slavery.
The world no longer looks the same to us—we are no longer disinterested observers of the human race: we see people, broken and hurting in their lives, desperately needing a Savior.
We don’t see each other the same—we see each person as a child of God. The Fatherhood of God demands the brotherhood of man, and each person is His handiwork, in need of Him to realize their God-given potential.
Micah says it so well: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (6:8)
Having watched fire burn up close, I have no desire to experience that again. I am much more pained by fire and its devastating effects, and I now know what costs it exacts from the land. So, too, with the Spirit of God living in me, I am pained by sin and its devastating effects, and I know what costs it exacts from me. Christ paid the price for me—why return to debt?
Fire is so costly: we should not walk through the dried grasses with a lighted match. Sin is so costly: we shouldn’t walk through our lives without daily seeking Him for strength and wisdom. We don’t fight fire with fire: we fight fire with the blood of Jesus.
Dearest Father: Sin burns, scars us and leaves us devastated. Let us be vigilant to watch for its approach—but not on our own strength! We need to stay firmly rooted in You and look at sin from Your point of view: seeing that it is not fun but fire and only You can keep us on safe ground. In Your Son’s wonderful name, amen.