September 10, 1996
Dr. Jack O’Brian Poe, Chaplain of the Oklahoma City Police Department, spoke in Edmonton this past weekend. He told several stories describing rescue operations after the April 19, 1995 bombing in their city. Even over a year later, words from someone who had been there made this tragedy more vivid than did television pictures filmed live as those events happened.
One of Poe’s stories illustrated the difficulty rescuers had with the gigantic task before them. They arrived to save lives but were soon forced to make a mental and emotional shift — there were no living people to rescue. Searching for life and finding none produced despair beyond imagination.
Poe said he, his wife, and others spent hours with workers who came one after another into the Chaplaincy headquarters. They were emotionally traumatized, physically exhausted and unable to go on. They asked for prayer so they could return to the task. Poe stressed that prayer held these devastated people together and kept them doing what had to be done.
Despair even engulfed their search dogs. These animals are trained to bark when they find a living person and whimper if the person is dead. Poe said the dogs whimpered so often that they became depressed and refused to enter the building. To encourage them to get on with their gruesome task, rescue teams had to place some living people in the rubble.
Perhaps in a less literal way, looking for life is a universal endeavor. When we walk into a garden in the spring, we search for new shoots and evidence of growth rather than examine decayed plants or leaves. Because we value life, nurseries are far more appealing than morgues.
The Bible says even the whole of creation yearns for life. He says creation is frustrated by its “bondage to decay.” That is, everything that is now alive is subject to death and decay but even creation, like people, longs to see genuine, lasting life. He puts it like this: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.”
In this context, Paul equates the children of God with genuine, lasting life. He has already explained that after God’s people die, the eternal life they have through Christ is glorious. It lasts. It is so real and so wonderful that even the best we could face while here on earth is nothing in comparison.
It is true that God’s people are also subject to death and decay, but because of life from Christ, they will completely overcome death. The eternal life He gives is true and real. It is a life that cannot die. It is the life that every person, even every living creature longs to have.
Paul celebrates this life. Those who have it, he calls “the sons of God.” Those who do not have it and all else in creation yearns for it, even longs for merely the appearance of those who have life. Creation longs for God’s life-bearing children to come forward, to be seen, to give hope and to share their wonderful life.
Unfortunately, some of creation searches in vain — like the rescue dogs. Our planet, like the Oklahoma Federal Building, seems to be filled with bodies that have no life and those who look for it are filled with despair. They move through the rubble of their existence without any evidence of genuine, lasting life. Their vain search drags them into hopeless depression.
Few physically survived that terrible bombing, but Christ offers hope to all for eternal survival. As people search for true life, Christians need to demonstrate it. We also need to pray with the searchers and for the searchers, so they do not give up. When they do find Christ, who is our Life, their destiny will then depend on their prayers and on their willingness to reach out and grab hold of the Rescuer who will gladly pull them from the bondage of decay.