The story about the swimmers caught in a riptide in Panama City, Florida was all over the news this week. It seems that there were a number of people swept away from the beach by a riptide. This happens on a regular basis wherever people swim in the ocean and is extremely dangerous.
Once a swimmer gets caught in the current of a riptide, the water pushing against them is so strong that it pulls them away from the beach. It is like the undertow that we feel when a wave recedes from the beach but stronger. The tide pushes the swimmer out to sea regardless of how hard they swim against it.
The ocean tide is relentless. It doesn’t get tired or worn out. It never gives up. When a person struggles against it in their own strength the only result is exhaustion and often death by drowning. It doesn’t matter how strong the swimmer is in their own strength. To get out of a riptide they usually need someone to come in and save them.
On most occasions, this salvation is through a lifeguard. What was noteworthy about the story from this week was the actions of complete strangers. When the people on the beach saw swimmers trapped by the force of the riptide and being swept away, they banded together. They made a human chain from the beach to dry land. 80 people who did not know each other linked arms and stretched out from safety into the deep. Their only motive was to rescue those who were being swept away. They risked their own lives in the process for those who were perishing.
While watching the news reports about the incident, it struck me just how much this simple act of heroism is a picture of us as Christians. How it mirrors the role of the church in the world today. While the swimmers in the story risked all to save the physical body, their efforts are exactly what each Christian is called to do every day to save the spiritual body. We the church are the eternal version of the human chain.
Our dry ground is Jesus and His Word, of course. He is the rock, our fortress, and our salvation. A house built on Jesus will not be swept away when the storms come. A man who is on solid ground will never be swayed by even the biggest waves.
We don’t stop there though. Our commission, our marching orders from our Lord demands more.
Because there are millions being swept away by the current of this world. Like the riptide, it is relentless, unyielding and powerful. It seeks to draw those stuck in its grasp away from the safety of Jesus. It seeks to drag them away, exhaust them and then drown them once and for all.
And there is nothing that those who are being carried away can do to save themselves. They are stuck and headed for certain destruction unless someone intervenes to save them.
Perhaps this is why Jesus phrased the Great Commission liked He did? It is not voluntary. It is not if we feel like it. It is a direct order from Jesus to us. The Centurion uses the same form of command when he discusses his power with Jesus – for more on this read here.Jesus’ Orders to Us
Jesus knows that there are people in great danger. He knows that they need to be rescued. He knows that their eternal salvation rests on getting to Him, the solid ground. So He orders us to go.
It is that simple.
Jesus never says that it will not be dangerous either. Quite the contrary, He understands that if we venture out to save others in the hostile and unforgiving ocean of humanity we risk losing our lives.
He orders us to go anyway. He loves those people who are in danger of drowning. Unlike the people on the beach in Florida, we may lose our physical lives but our eternal life can never be taken from us. The sea, therefore, holds no actual risk to us.
Paul understood stood this truth very well. He was literally cast into the sea three times after being shipwrecked while trying to rescue others. He spent a night and a day in the deep drifting in the ocean while on his missionary journeys.
He understood the cost very well but knew that it was worth it. He met Jesus face to face on the Road to Damascus, after all. He had seen God’s glory up close and personal. He knew with certainty that Jesus is Lord.
So he linked arms with James, John, Philip and even the one who he helped kill Stephen, the Christians who came before him. He joined together with those saints living and dead, formed a human chain and boldly walked into the water.
It is what Jesus did for him after all. It is what Jesus did for each of us. Jesus came from the dry ground of heaven into a humanity that had made itself His enemy and gave Himself for us. All so that we could be saved.
Are we setting out into the deep today?
Are we linking arms with believers around us to charge the darkness that surrounds us?
There are so many who are in trouble and being swept away. We have our orders.
Are we getting our feet wet and following our Lord’s Command? If so, today is a great day to get started.
What do you think?