From Paul Tripp Ministies

First Responders

This is the fifth and final installment in my series, Five Words That Change Families. Just to recap: we’ve looked at Surrender, Purpose, Discipline and Patience. Today’s concluding word is MERCY.

We’ve all been taught in Sunday School that God is a God of mercy. When David pens Psalm 51 – one of the most famous passages in the entire Bible – he begins with, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.” Mercy is a popular Christian term, but what does it actually look like in real life? And specifically, how will mercy change our family for the better?

I want to give you a word picture that should help: God has ordained family members to be his first responders of mercy when the natural disaster of sin strikes.

If there’s a burning building with people inside, we call the fire department and pray for the first responders to arrive on the scene. Immediately, these first responders rush into the building to save those trapped. Their only goal in that moment is to rescue.

A first responder doesn’t enter a burning building to judge the residents for starting the fire. A first responder doesn’t enter a burning building to critique how the residents could have exited safely on their own. No, a first responder risks everything on a mission of rescue. They’re employed to save those who can’t save themselves.

How does this word picture relate? Your family members (and you too!) are trapped inside a burning building of personal sin, and God has employed you to be a first responder of mercy in their lives.

Here’s how it works: God will expose the sin, weakness and failure of the people in your family to you because he’s on a mission of mercy in their lives. God makes his invisible mercy visible by ordaining first responders of mercy to give mercy to people who need mercy.

Mercy is why you experience the sin of your spouse, your children, your siblings and your parents. It’s never an accident, an interruption, or a hassle – it’s always God’s rescuing mercy.

Now, don’t misunderstand mercy. Mercy doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin, nor does it accept moral failure and rebellion as okay. Rather, mercy drives first responders to run towards the person who needs rescue, rather than away from them.

Mercy means we don’t reject them, ignore them, scream at them, slam the door in their face and walk away. Those are all the actions of judgement. Mercy moves me towards my family members because I understand that they need God’s rescue, and I have been called to be a first responder.

But if a first responder is only worried about what’s comfortable and easy and safe, they’ll never enter the burning building; they’ll simply drive past or ignore the emergency call.

God sent Jesus as a first responder to rescue you from sin. Today, why don’t you accept the call to live as a first responder in your family?

God bless

Paul Tripp

Reflection Questions

  1. How did you respond poorly recently to the sin, weakness or failure of a family member?
  2. How should a first responder of mercy biblically respond to these fires? How can you prepare yourself for next time?


First Responders

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