I read a tragic story in the news this week. A 16-year-old girl was walking down some train tracks listening to her iPod on high quality noise-canceling headphones. She never heard the blaring horn of the freight train approaching from behind. The train couldn't stop soon enough and struck her dead.
I was immediately grieved, and also frustrated. If she had just had her music volume lower! If she had only been wearing cheap headphones! If she would have just stayed off the tracks to begin with! If the engineer had only seen her sooner and been able to slow down more! If only someone had seen her and been able to push her out of the way in time! All of these scenarios could have saved her life, and her family the grief of losing her.
Then I thought about my own life, and the lives of so many people out in the world. So many of us are like that girl, walking down a path we really shouldn't be on to begin with. It could be as severe as a drug or lust addiction or as "innocent" as overeating or being lazy. It could even be something completely non-physical, like an attitude problem: pride, anger, or bitterness. Whatever it is, we're walking smack in the middle of it, and we know we're not supposed to be there.
In our foolishness and stubborn pride, we put in our God-canceling headphones and listen to the lies, excuses and justifications for being there rather than heeding the blaring warnings given to us in the Word and through the Holy Spirit. If we stay on that path and continue to ignore the warnings, we're going to die. And I'm not just talking figuratively or spiritually -- this path could literally lead us to physical death!
As a Christian, the steps to avoid certain death sound so simple:
1.) Get off the tracks. You're not supposed to be there anyhow.
2.) Take out the headphones. No more excuses, no more lies.
3.) Listen to God and live.
But in reality, it takes a lot of discipline to break yourself of the bad habits that are killing us. God give us grace to simply do what's right.
For unbelievers, though, the concept might not be quite as simple. Maybe they have no idea that they're not supposed to be on those tracks. They don't know the Bible or how to hear the Holy Spirit. They've been taught all their lives that what they're listening to is fine and good.
It's our job, then, to run to those people and push them off the tracks. Help them take out the God-canceling headphones and hear the blaring truth: that the way they're going will only lead to death.
Now that I think about it, there's one more step for Christians:
4.) STAY OFF THE TRACKS.
Jesus threw himself in front of that train for us so we could live. We saw the train go by and how close we were to death, how unavoidable it would have been if He hadn't stepped in. For a while we were completely humbled and broken; but over time, we forgot what he did. We forgot how imminent the danger was.
So we get back on the tracks and walk down those same paths we were walking on before he rescued us. At first things seem fine. Then we hear the distant rumblings of a train. But the train is a long ways off, so we can keep going for a little while longer (and the first headphone goes in). We feel the ground start to tremble, but we're really having fun, so maybe just a little bit longer and we'll get off well in time for the train to go by (and the second headphone goes in). Now life and death are upon us.
What will it be?