We laughed at the short answer. He went on to say that most of the time the beach patrol will give a warning or a ticket, and rarely have to take the person to jail. To me, the bigger point was… lifeguards don’t swim out to offenders and take them to jail. That’s just not what they do.
Lifeguards watch people. They give warnings to swimmers based on the information they have about the conditions. They blow the whistle on people. They rush out to save people who get into trouble. But they also call enforcement authorities on those who will not heed the warnings or directives. They don’t make the rules of the beach. They just enforce them. They aren’t judgmental. They aren’t hypocrites. They aren’t trying to take away anyone’s fun. They are trying to save lives. Sometimes you save lives by watching. Sometimes you save lives by swimming out to people who are drowning. Sometimes you save lives by blowing a whistle. Sometimes you save lives by calling beach patrol. The goal is saving lives. The fact that some people don’t like the way a lifeguard saves lives does not relieve them of their obligation.
As Christians, we are spiritual lifeguards. We aren’t beach patrol. The apostle Jude put it this way to the early Christians…
“Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; have mercy on others but with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” (Jude 1:23)
The Christian will not have the same response to everyone in sin anymore than the lifeguard will have the same response to everyone in the ocean. Sometimes we will look too merciful. Other times we will look judgmental. Don’t worry about how you look. Be more concerned with how well you are doing your job. Are you watching out for your fellow man? Are you watching the life conditions? Are you warning people who are swimming into danger? Are you going out to help those who get into trouble? Are you calling on God to stop those who are rebelling against sound teaching?
Today you are not the beach patrol (police). You are the lifeguard. Put on some sunscreen. Get your equipment together. Keep a keen eye. Be prepared to put yourself in harm’s way. Ask God to help you do your job well. And ask Him to do those things that you are not to do.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.