Walking through the forest, a seasoned hiker came upon a broad, slowly moving river. He stopped to gaze over the waters, appreciating the beauty, when suddenly he heard a faint cry coming from upstream. Looking in the direction of the noise, he saw an obviously drowning man floundering in the river and drifting slowly toward him.
The hiker was stunned momentarily, but he sprang into action when he saw the man disappear beneath the waters. Throwing off all of his cumbersome gear, he dove into the river and swam like a madman toward the spot where the man went under.
Upon reaching the spot he plunged below the surface and frantically hauled up the helpless man. Then he laboriously towed the victim to shore. Heaving the lifeless body up on the riverbank, the hiker attempted to revive the man, who eventually spit up water and began to breathe.
Relieved, the hiker paused to catch his breath. But no sooner had he done so than he heard another voice out on the water. Another drowning person! Once again he swam out and pulled the person to shore, a little more slowly this time. As the hiker-turned-lifeguard revived the second victim, he heard yet another cry for help.
All day long the hiker worked, rescuing one person after another as they came drifting down the river. There seemed to be no end of drowning victims, and the hiker didn’t think he could keep it up.
Just when he was about to collapse from exhaustion, he spotted another man walking rapidly beside the river, headed upstream. “Hey mister!” he cried out. “Please help me! These poor people are drowning!”
Amazingly, the man kept walking upstream. The astonished hiker called out again. Without even acknowledging the cry, the man kept going. Indignant and angry, the hiker leapt to his feet, ran toward the uncompassionate man, stood directly in his path, and in a loud voice demanded, “Sir! How can you possibly walk past all these drowning people? Have you no conscience? Must I force you to help me save these people?”
The stranger stopped, looked at him for the first time and said with a calm, focused voice, “Sir, please get out of my way. I am headed upstream to stop the guy who is pushing all these people in.”
Each of us has a role to play in rescuing those who are drowning in sin. Some of us pull people from the water and resuscitate them with counseling, food and shelter, a rehabilitation program, a support group, or financial aid. Affirm those doing these important ministries.
Others of us find our place of ministry upstream, opposing the One pushing people into the river. We do this by introducing those people to Jesus Christ. Knowing Christ sets a person free from sin and releases them from Satan’s power over them.
By itself, pulling people from the water isn’t enough. We need to help people deal with the problem of sin at its source.