In April 1980, my wife and I had just moved to Wichita Falls, TX. I had to go downtown to get my telephone service turned on. I was in a room of around 100 people who were there for the same reason. Just as my name was called, a siren went off in the streets. Everybody in the room grabbed their kids and ran out of the building. I had no idea what was going on. I asked an obviously nervous employee what was happening. She told me that the siren was a tornado warning, which meant that one had been spotted in town. She then ran out of the room herself. I thought the people in that room were overreacting. In fact, I remember laughing to myself and feeling glad everybody ran away so I didn’t have to wait in line.
When I went outside, the skies were very black. There was an eerie silence. Still, I was not at all afraid. I got into my VW bug and started driving home. However, things turned bad very quickly. The rain and wind beat against my little car and blew it all over the road. I couldn’t see through the windshield and was disoriented. I saw a house, abandoned my car, ran through the rain and wind, and beat on the door for the people to let me in (think of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz trying to get into the storm shelter). Nobody came to the door. I quickly jumped back into the car and made it to my apartment. My wife was hiding in a closet. A tornado had touched down in a field about a mile from us.
When I heard the siren, I didn’t take it seriously. The people in the room, however, did. Why? A year earlier, a massive tornado had ripped through the town, killing sixty people. Many people lost their homes. Churches and businesses were destroyed. I had not experienced that or seen the destruction that a tornado could cause. But I should have learned from what others had gone through.
The Bible is full of warnings. In 2 Tim 2:22, for example, Paul tells young Timothy to “flee youthful lusts.” These lusts may refer to sexual temptations but could also refer to a variety of temptations that a young Christian leader might fall victim to, such as pride and a desire for worldly acclaim. Perhaps Paul had all these things in mind. He was sounding an alarm for Timothy to hear. No doubt, Paul had experienced such temptations in his years of ministry and had seen other men and women fall to them. He wanted Timothy to see the danger.
How did Timothy respond to that siren? We don’t know. He might have been like me on that April day in Texas. Maybe he did not see the danger. Maybe he had not struggled greatly with pride or with the other lusts Paul had in mind. Maybe he had but considered them easily controlled. I wonder if he thought Paul was overreacting.
The siren in Wichita Falls that day had a purpose. It was for the good of the people who heard it. I did not take it seriously. When it comes to the sirens in the NT, we should not be as stupid as I was. They are there for a purpose. Even if we do not see the seriousness of the situation, perhaps we can learn from those who do. Older and mature believers, or simply those who have certain experiences—those who have seen the destruction that the sins involved in these warnings can cause—can bear witness to how serious they are.
When we see believers run away from the things the Scriptures warn us about, let us take notice. We can learn from them. May we not leisurely get into a little VW bug and drive headfirst into a storm.