A rescue worker recently died while trying to find a lost hiker. As reported by CNN, “A volunteer rescue worker died Saturday while searching for a hiker on Mount Baldy in California, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said. Timothy Staples of the West Valley Search and Rescue team, (a ‘dedicated volunteer’ for nine years), was among those looking for Sreenivas ‘Sree’ Mokkapati, a 52-year-old reported missing December 8 while hiking to the Mount Baldy summit. The West Valley Search and Rescue team said on Facebook that Staples died after a horrible fall.”
Volunteering your time and putting yourself in dangerous situations to help others, especially those in dire or deadly predicaments, is a truly noble action. The Bible speaks to the selflessness of this act, “‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends’” (John 15:13).
This desire to help others while putting oneself at risk quite often leads to accidental death as well. Of those killed in the 911 attacks, 343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers died rushing towards the burning towers with the intent of rescuing others.
One publication states, “In certain situations, the data show, more people are killed trying to rescue others than are killed in the initial accident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently examined reports for fatal, confined-space accidents and found that when multiple deaths occurred, the majority of the victims were rescuers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health previously reported that rescuers account for more than 60 percent of confined-space fatalities (slate.com).”
While many have selflessly given their lives to help those in dire need, what about those who place themselves in danger by their own choice or ignorance? The desire to climb Mount Everest has become a worldwide endeavor since Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. Since then, “Some 290 people have died climbing Everest in more than a century of attempts, according to the Himalayan Database, an archive that tracks expeditions in the Nepalese Himalayas going back to 1905. About a third, 94, have been Sherpas (npr.org).”
While many might argue that Sherpa deaths are part of the job they have chosen to take part in, it still doesn’t excuse so many deaths merely for man’s folly in desiring to conquer a mountain.
When we seek to conquer and overcome our own mountain of human carnality, are we being conscientious in how we attain that goal? Spiritual recklessness can cause our own defeat and quite possibly that of those around us. Christ warns of this mindset and the dangers it poses, “‘But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea’”(Mark 9:42).
There is no place in God’s Family for those that lead believers astray. Those words are terrifying in implication and will be the ruin of many who have walked this earth lead by deceit. But the warning given by Christ should not dissuade us from trying to do good. We must continually lead by example and be lights to those in darkness. Christ didn’t call us IN perfection, He called us TO perfection. Paul, with all of his troubles, understood this quite well. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
The willingness to give our lives for Truth is the hallmark of what it means to be a Christian. Let us be sure to save and not destroy that Truth or those whom God calls into it.