As I write this piece, the 33 trapped Chilean miners are about to be rescued, one at a time. They have been trapped underground since August 5, and all the television networks are now devoted to their final release. It will be an amazing media event, as well as a cause of great joy when they are all delivered from their underground prison.
While it is a tremendous human interest story, complete with highs and lows, human courage and endurance, pathos and joy, and plenty of other emotions, it also offers a number of spiritual lessons. The first and most obvious one, from a biblical point of view, is that we are all trapped sinners.
Our sinful condition is so bad, so severe, and so entrenched, that there is absolutely nothing we can do for ourselves to get out of our predicament. Unless there is help from above, we are all doomed. The obstacles to be overcome are far too great for any of us.
The Christian message is that we are lost sinners, indeed, we are all dead in our sins and trespasses. Self-effort just will not cut it when we are dead. We need resurrection, not mere reform, and that life-giving rescue must come from somewhere outside of ourselves.
And God in Christ of course has been that rescuer. He has taken the initiative, not us. Indeed, we are content to live in our sin and rebellion against God. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:8). We were no-hopers, and only a divine rescue plan could be of any use.
These miners are under no illusion of their hopeless predicament. Unless they get outside help, they are doomed. That is true of every one of us, spiritually speaking. Our sinful condition is overwhelming and terminal. Only a gracious rescue plan initiated by God can get us out of our dire straits.
Another lesson has to do with the nature of God’s work of salvation. God’s deliverance is a complete package. It is not just the offer of forgiveness, but of actual deliverance and transformation. Consider a similar sort of scenario. A boy on a remote farm is repeatedly told by his father not to go to a dangerous part of the property.
There is a deep and dangerous ravine in one corner of his land, and he does not want his young son endangering himself by playing in the area. Yet as young boys often do, he disobeyed his father, and spent some time exploring this ravine.
And sure enough, the next thing he knew was that he was at the bottom of the ravine, trapped and without hope of getting out. As the day drew to a close, with no sign of his son, the farmer went looking for his missing son. He figured the ravine would be the first place to investigate.
And there he was. The son cried out in desperation, “I’m sorry, dad, I’m sorry! I should not have gone here. I should have obeyed you!” His father replied, “That’s OK son. I forgive you”. And with that, he walked back to the farmhouse.
Now what is wrong with that story? Would any father really do this? Of course not. The father would not only forgive his wayward son, but would rescue him, deliver him, set him free from his predicament. That is also true in the spiritual realm.
Christian forgiveness does not just entail divine forgiveness. It also involves a divine rescue plan. God does not want to leave us in our desperate entrapped condition. He wants to set us free, to deliver us from the pit we are in. Forgiveness is just one aspect of biblical salvation.
Being delivered from our sinful, selfish lifestyles is also part of salvation as found in Scripture. God forgives, but he also delivers us out of our predicament. He sets the prisoner free, and rescues those who cannot rescue themselves. Biblical salvation is far more than just a legal pronouncement of forgiveness. It also involves a transformed life.
A third spiritual lesson to be gleaned from this event is that we must keep short accounts. The truth is, you never know when you might be brought up short. Life offers no guarantees, and every day may be your last. And it is not just the shortness and unexpected nature of life, but the idea of being caught out.
While these miners knew their work was risky indeed, and mine collapses are always a possibility, they go to work hoping this will not be the case. But when the unexpected does happen, are we ready for it? Recall that early on when this story developed, one quite embarrassing situation arose.
It seems that one of the miners had not only his concerned wife waiting for him up top, but also his concerned mistress! Needless to say, the wife was not very pleased to make this discovery, and while the miner, once freed, will be elated, he will also be in big trouble as he seeks to sort this mess out.
You never know when your secret life might get exposed. Better to live a life of integrity so as not to have to worry about such embarrassing and damaging moments. When we walk in the light, and keep close accounts, we will not have to fear about unexpected contingencies. We can face life without fear or concern.
Other lessons undoubtedly present themselves from this episode. But as always, the stuff of this life provides fertile soil for spiritual teaching. We need to heed the lesson we find around us, as we consider the bigger and eternal issues of life.