Rescuers Run In
I was a young wife. Dressed in a navy blue polka-dot dress. The screen caught my eye as I was walking out the door. A plane hit the World Trade Center. I woke my husband.
“Wow, babe, look at this.”
We were preparing to go to the mission field to share the gospel and our lives with American military members overseas. We were working our way through seminary; he was about halfway through his Masters of Divinity.
The television was on at my office. When I arrived, the second plane hit the second tower. I called home.
“Are you watching the news?”
My co-worker cried. Her son lived on Manhattan. Calls to his cell phone went unanswered.
One of my bridesmaids lived in Brooklyn. I couldn’t reach her.
Then the Pentagon. Then Shanksville. Then we watched the towers fall and the rescuers run in.
Rescuers Run In
The rescuers captivated us. We stayed glued to the television because we wanted to see every fireman who ran in. We yearned to hear their stories, to witness their heroism. In the midst of the darkest of days, they brought us light, hope.
Even today, we remembered not only the victims of the terrorist attack, but we paid special tribute to the rescuers. Memorials were held precisely for the firemen who ran in. All across the nation there were stair climbs—people climbed the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center for the fallen. My friend Flavia climbed in memory of David J. Fontana, Firefighter, Squad One, wearing a badge with his young and vibrant photo on it.
Rescuers are heroes precisely because they run towards danger, rather than away from it, for the sake of those in trouble. They reject self-preservation and fully embrace sacrifice. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The firemen on 9/11 laid down their lives not for their friends, but for their countrymen, their fellow community members, other New Yorkers.
We are captivated by that. And we should be.
Historically, Christians Ran In
Since the time of Christ, Christians too have run in. It was the early Christians who rescued and loved babies abandoned by Romans who didn’t want them. It was the early Christians who ran towards the Roman plague and not away from it—extending care to those dying by the thousands every day. It was the early Christians who extended social relief, elevated women, embraced all ethnicities, and loved the poor. Christianity spread largely because the early church embraced God’s free gift of love and then extended it to others. (Their radical way of life is well documented in books such as Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries.)
Even in our own age we have seen Christians run towards Ebola, run towards adoption, run towards hurting moms in unplanned pregnancies, run towards the foster system, run towards the border. Christians run towards hurricanes, earthquakes, despair.
Because our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and our lives are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We can run in because we are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).
Jesus Ran In
Jesus, of course, is the ultimate rescuer who ran farther in than anyone else ever has to save us: the lost, the hopeless, the dead.
“Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
We are captivated when we acknowledge that he who deserved glory and exaltation and nothing less than to remain on his rightful throne in heaven, came down—went in to complete devastation, forsaking himself on our behalf. On a scale far grander than even the most heroic fireman at the World Trade Center, the Son of God came down, went in, brought us out.
As a result, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Where Can You Run In Right Now?
It is right and good for us to be captivated by rescuers. We were captivated by the rescuers on 9/11 and we are captivated by the rescuers we see today. Most of all, may we be captivated by Jesus, the greatest rescuer.
And may you and I be moved to rescue, as well. To lay down our lives is to treasure Christ and our neighbors above ourselves. Where can you and I run in today?
Overseas? Across the nation? Next door? Who is suffering? Who is sick? Who needs love? Who needs food? Who needs a mom and a dad? Where can we run?
May the heroism of 9/11, the historical work of the church, and Christ himself propel you and me towards danger, towards rescue, towards losing our lives for the sake of Christ.
For there, in the rescue, we will actually find it.