In our area this week there is a special effort by many to extend a genuinely heartfelt expression of appreciation to people in our community who serve as a frontline response to the needs of people in crisis.
Those who serve as Emergency Management Technicians (EMTs), firefighters, and law enforcement officers, not to mention medical professionals serving in area emergency room departments, have an especially challenging, often heart-breaking, yet incredibly important role in meeting people in desperate situations.
Those that I have had the profound privilege of meeting and working with, make truly significant contributions that are rarely appreciated on a truly significant level. The sacrifices that they make, the tragedies that they mitigate, and the emotional woundings that they receive are not necessarily the things that they knew or could understand were part of the pathway they were signing on to, but even if they had known, they would for the most part, I believe, still have chosen that path of helping others.
In Romans 13:1-7, the Bible discusses how we are to respond to civil authority and how our handling of those who serve publicly reveals our heart attitudes towards God. Verse 7 specifically comes to mind when I regard those who serve us in our times of severe trial and calamity: “…respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7b ESV).
The men and women who make up our “Corps of First Responders” are some of the ones the Lord has in mind when He commands us to render respect and honor to whom it is owed. The sacrifices that they make, the hardships that they endure, and the horrors that they too often must face, as well as the risks that they sometimes must take, are frequent and frightening. Yet, were they to shy away from the call of serving, because of the dangers or the risks, our community would suffer immeasurably.
Respect and honor of these community heroes come in a number of forms. The first is to affirm them and the work that they do, materially when possible. “The laborer deserves his wages” (from 1 Timothy 5:18b which is referring to support for teachers of God’s Word but is drawing from the principles found in Leviticus 19:13 and Deuteronomy 24:15). But our support isn’t just material, but is verbal and public as well. We can openly support and affirm them in our community, recognizing their special acts of courage and support for those they help. We can counter undue and unfair criticisms with praise and expressions of gratitude, working to promote a culture of positivity in what is otherwise a negative and exhausting work.
Secondly, we support them with what secondary support we can, providing resources for those they serve so that the service of our first responders means something beyond the crisis (and are not mere “band-aids” that do not truly lead to lasting help). But this also means resources for the first responders themselves, these servants who at times need to be served (e.g., counseling, support groups and so forth). There is high price to pay emotionally as they work with things that are sometimes naturally occurring, are sometimes accidents, or are occasionally on purpose – yet rendering traumatic results for those directly involved but for our first responders as well.
And finally, we honor them by praying for them, interceding on their behalf for the power, wisdom, protection, and provision of God to fill them, guide them, guard them, and empower them in their work, their families, their lives, and their hearts. The needs that they seek to meet require more than is humanly possible to give, so they need the Lord’s help in being what they need to be for others. They need us to pray for them and their families: crisis is sometimes hard to not take home (as if our first responders can simply flip a switch and forget all that they have seen and felt when they walk through the doors of their own homes to greet their own families). And there is a kind of wounding and weariness that they experience as they serve over time. We must pray for their renewal and refreshment.
So please, when you meet a first responder, practice kindness towards them. When you see them, thank them. When they need you, support them. They serve us well and serve us faithfully. Accordingly, we honor God when we honor them.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 ½ years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).