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The Dallas Morning News carried a story with this headline: “Nurse dies saving patient from house fire” (11/26/20, 4A). This home nurse was a 64-year-old trying to save her 71-year-old paraplegic patient from the flames of a house fire in Louisiana.

She tried to wheel her patient’s bed out of the room, and when that failed, she tried to push her out of a window to safety. It was her dying act of compassion; smoke inhalation claimed the nurse’s life. Airlifted to a hospital, the patient survived and was expected to make a full recovery.

I reflected on the courage and commitment of this home nurse. She gave her life to try to save her patient. She will be remembered for her bravery and compassion.

Jude 1:20-23 also came to my mind when I read their story. At the end of this brief letter, Jude writes: “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (NIV).

Notice that line: “Save others by snatching them from the fire.” Jude puts it in a real world context for us, emphasizing how urgent the situation is when we attempt to rescue someone from the deadly consequences of sin. But he does not want us rushing in blindly. No, Jude also wants to warn us of the danger to ourselves.

This is where the story of the nurse deviates from the story we find ourselves in when we try to save someone from spiritual death. When someone gives their life to rescue someone physically, we praise them and admire their courageous sacrifice. On the other hand, when Christians try to save someone spiritually and then lose their own soul in the process, we shed tears and shake our heads with aching hearts.

Even the apostle Paul, a tireless church planter and dedicated gospel preacher, told the church at Corinth that he led himself as he tried to lead others. Paul explained that he maintained discipline “so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9:27).  

Notice that Jude, like Paul, writes about maintaining our own relationship with God. Jude says build your faith, stay in prayer, and keep yourselves in the love of God. Then he says show mercy by saving others.

Rescuing others can be difficult. It can be challenging. And it can also be rewarding! We can and should celebrate each time we help someone run out of danger and into God’s loving, forgiving arms. 

But remember to “show mercy, mixed with fear” (Jude 1:23). Compassion and caution are both in order. You must not lose your own soul while trying to save someone else. 

  • Do not let their surrender to temptation lead to yours.
  • Do not let their clouded choices affect yours.
  • Do not let their path to condemnation become yours.

We must have a merciful heart that can be moved to act. We must feel an urgency that compels us to reach out in an attempt to save others. And, we must recognize that there is a line we must not cross.

Always go prayerfully and carefully when you are seeking to save someone who is dancing in the fire.