Explaining The Parable (Allegory, Illustration, Story)

This won’t make sense until you read the post that precedes it — the one about fires, trucks, and firefighters . . . and if, like Ashwin, you don’t like it or get my points, this might help. I just wanted to incubate it all for a day or so.

The first firefighter represents those in the Church who are terribly busy and utterly immersed in Christian-looking activities, convinced that if idle hands are the Devil’s workshop, a busy DayTimer full of Bible studies, meetings, prayer groups, and “fellowship” activities are a temple, of sorts, to the Lord. Silly activities that take us away from our own families and keep us apart from those who aren’t part of the Church are generally justified by appeals both to “fellowshipping” one with another and, most effectively, an unfortunate exegesis of Scripture. It not only reinforces the clergy/laity distinction, but has people convinced that a true understanding of the spiritual gifts requires excusing ourselves from many immediate, specific ministry opportunities because of our gender, our belief in how we’ve been gifted or not, and a tragic acceptance that we’ll never really be called to something risky.

In that way, it’s like being a firefighter in the hope that if you arrange your professional life just so, you’ll enjoy the prestige and the perks without ever having to risk injury, or viewing the water in your tank as too precious to risk spilling indiscriminately. The situation at hand is indisputable; if you’re a firefighter, your duty to act is, too.

The second firefighter is a picture of angry Christiandom, those in the Church who believe that confronting evil in the name of Christ is the primary imperative of the Gospel-bearing believer. Legitimate concerns about morality, doctrine, and order feed an overly masculine approach to the “war against sin,” unleashing anger and not humility, a preference for letter over Spirit, and a narrow understanding of how God will work rather than an openness to how God might or might not. Confronting sin, then, involves a right understanding that sin is a symptom, not a focus, and is an exercise in futility and an invitation to hate without a parallel, greater concern for offering the healing message of Christ.

It’s like being a firefighter because you hate fire, not because you want to help people caught in its grip. Better to not accept entry into the firehouse if fire is your only interest.

The third firefighter symbolizes the fully-quipped but woefully unprepared disciple who so fears the world that anything more than minimal contact with it is seen as an open door to sin. These are the believers who see avoidance of sin as the primary point of Christian life, which leads them to fear sinners and, not coincidentally, develop a useless, prettied-up form of Christianity utterly impractical, like a firefighter in high-heel suede boots, in engaging with a lost and hurting world. “Righteousness in Christ” is re-cast as a continual challenge to never sin, rather than a reality that equips the believer to openly and confidently navigate through a sinful world.

Being well-trained but unable to perform, and afraid to do so, is like being a firefighter who has to explain to his or her captain why, on a fire call in a fully-equipped tanker, fancy high-heels and a luxury coat, as well as a fear of smelling icky, seemed like a good idea.

So.

The point of my story is that all of us are like firefighters and the world is burning around us. We are fully equipped, well trained, and possess everything we need to extinguish the fire, clean up the mess, and minister to the world around us. But if we fail to engage, fail to love, and fail to take our calling seriously, we contribute to the grief and loss at hand every bit as much as firefighters who drive away from household infernos, trucks and tankers full of the one thing — water — most needed.

I’ll let Ashwin, who commented somewhat negatively on the form of my parable, go on with his analysis of my writing and structure. I think the point I’m making is pretty clear.

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