A story in Louisville last weekend caught my attention as I was scrolling down my Twitter feed. Apparently someone stole a Bullitt County EMS ambulance outside Jewish Hospital and eventually crashed it into the Home of the Innocents, a center that provides services to at-risk children and families. Fortunately no one was hurt at the Home of the Innocents, and since the driver ran off after the crash, apparently they were not injured either.
But for some reason the story of that stolen ambulance hit me harder than usual. I kept thinking about how the acts of the thief might have affected the emergency responders. All of a sudden, that ambulance was not available to make an emergency run. Did that absence impact the rest of the night? Did someone not get medical attention as quickly because the responders had to adjust to the theft? Could someone even have died as a result, all because of the selfish act of this individual who decided to take the ambulance? (Maybe I’ve watched too many time-travel movies, in which one small act causes a chain reaction that destroys the world.)
But even though I’ll never know the full impact of that ambulance being stolen, I do know one thing: that ambulance was a vehicle that should have been out there helping to save people. The ambulance did not exist to serve the desires of the individual that took it. Now the ambulance itself is smashed up, and won’t be helping save anyone anytime soon.
That incident also reminded me about how certain incorrect views of church and the Bible can have harmful and long-lasting effects. The purpose of the church and the Bible is to save people — that is, they should help reconcile people back to God through the good news of Jesus Christ. Yet for those of us who get involved with church and Bible study groups, there exists a constant temptation to instead view the church and the Bible as the means for our own advancement in life. We can even become unaware of the temptation and turn it into assumptions. We think, my getting involved in church should improve my life and the life of my family. And the Bible should show me how to succeed in life.
Those thoughts are not terribly far from the truth; after all, when we believe in Jesus, God gives us eternal peace with him and brings his constant presence into our lives. And as we continue to trust and obey God, he transforms us so that we think and act more like him. All of this brings us lasting satisfaction, purpose, and happiness, both in this life and the life to come. I’d definitely call that an improvement.
But this improvement is all in our relationship to God, not the world. We must not begin to treat God as the means to our life-improvement goals. God himself is our goal, and the point of the church and the Bible is to keep bringing us back to God through the good news of Jesus.
And those of us in church must constantly remember this, or we’ll forget that God has sent us on that same rescue mission. We can’t stop emphasizing the good news of Jesus, for then we’ll merely be taking joyrides in what’s supposed to be our ambulance.