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I'm a fire chaplain, not the morality police!

It happened again today. I was walking down the hall and someone cussed while talking with another firefighter. When she saw me, the chaplain, her face turned red and she looked at me with a big "oops" written all over her face. Now, I have been working in the fire service for over 16 years (5 years of it wildland), if I haven't heard it here I most definitely heard it when I worked for the 2 police departments in Oregon and Hawaii. This chaplain has been on the streets.

I'm originally from the Pacific Northwest so moving in the Bible Belt was a bit of a shock to me. Where I grew up there was a convenience store or gas station on every other corner, but now where I live it is a church. This brings a number of things to mind, but most of all I realize that the culture here is different. People have a different view of faith, church and especially of those of us who are in full time ministry. They act like if they do something around me, like cuss, I will somehow either call fire down upon them or maybe my eardrums will break or I will go blind (because I'm so innocent…yeah, right).

I sometimes wonder about Jesus's ministry while he was on the earth. The bible calls him the friend of sinners (Luke 7:34), but what does that really mean? Obviously he and the religious establishment had their disagreements, but what about he and those who were called sinners? Did Jesus hear anyone cuss or tell an inappropriate joke? What was his response? The Bible doesn't give us any of those details, though I'm sure if he called down fire from heaven and killed sinners in mass we would have seen it written in the Gospels. And probably the sinners wouldn't have wanted to hang around him anymore for fear of certain death.

I think the best example I can find is Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.(John 8:1-11) While what she did was obviously against the Jewish law he didn't condemn her. He just told her to go and sin no more. In this story Jesus shows that he could communicate and care for her while still holding on to his character. And in the midst of it all, when Jesus could have chosen to show justice, he showed mercy and grace, which is where her restoration began.

While it is sometimes very hard for me to sit and listen to what some of my firefighters have to say, I know it is my job to love on them and give them grace and mercy. No, this doesn't mean that I approve of what they say or that I tell the inappropriate joke or cuss so I can be closer to them. No, I just let grace and love be the first thing I approach them with and then let God be the one who continues to work on their heart.

In Him,

Chaplain Chris Wade

Vice President

South Carolina Public Safety Chaplains Association

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