Imagine one calm afternoon while you sit on your patio reading a book that your phone rings. On the other end is your 33-year-old firefighter son sounding rather anxious. “Dad,” he says, “I don’t know what to do. We’re out at a fire in the country, and it’s about to reach this guy’s house, but we’ve been told not to stop it because he didn’t pay his service fee. Some of the guys are feeling a little unsettled about all this, and I told them I’d ask you, since you’re the deacon of a church and you always have the right answer for me. What should I do?”
Reply 1: “Well, son, this is a difficult world where people need to learn personal responsibility. I know it seems callous and harsh to let this man’s house burn, but it’s not your fault that he didn’t pay. This country is falling apart because everybody wants to be a freeloader, and sometimes you just have to make an example out of someone. If people don’t think they have to pay in advance, no one will pay at all. Don’t worry, God will understand. This is how He deals with us, after all. He only protects us if we do what we’re supposed to do.”
Reply 2: “I understand what you’re struggling with because I know part of the reason you became a firefighter was you thought it was a way to help people and serve the community. But sometimes the only way to be a hero is to obey orders. You can’t just go around doing whatever seems right to you. If everybody acted on their own conscience, there’d be no order in the world. God tells us to obey authority, even if they’re wrong. So you just have to trust in the fact that it’s not your decision to make.”
Reply 3: “How can this even be a question for you? The Bible says that if we refuse to help someone when we can, we don’t have the love of God in us. I know I raised you better than that. If you want to call yourself a firefighter or a Christian, you’d better get off the phone with me and go put out that fire, son.”
So, which answer would you give him?
On September 29th, a group of Tennessee firemen first refused to respond to a fire at the rural home of Gene Cranick and then did show up to sit and to watch the fire consume his house, his possessions, his three dogs, and the family cat. Only when it eventually threatened to spread to a neighboring property did they finally act to put it out. The reason for their neglect? Mr. Cranick hadn’t paid his annual $75 protection money for rural fire service. He says he forgot this year, despite paying in the past, and he had offered to pay the department whatever amount they named if they would only save his home.