Friday, October 15, 2010

Pure as Coal

After being buried for nearly 70 days the Chilean miners were told that a sufficient tunnel had been drilled to begin taking the miners up above the surface of the earth. For the first time in over two months they would see their families, the sun, breath fresh air, and enjoy a cooked meal. Therefore, when the news of the rescue reached the miners they began fighting about the order of being brought out of the miry dark tomb that had housed them. However, their jockeying for position was not what you may have expected. Instead of arguing who would be the first to taste clean air and enjoy the sights and embrace of loved ones, they fought to be the last one. Now the difference between the first and the last was not a matter of minutes but of hours. What would cause 30 plus who had lived by the light of the miner’s helmet to put others before themselves? We are told that in survival situations humans become instinctual like animals, and it becomes survival of the fittest, yet here we see something different happening.

Such a reversal of expected behavior has led many reporters, commentators, and bloggers scrounging for answers. Some have humorously suggested that if you lived in Chile, a residency in a buried coal cavern is a better option than the political and economic chaos of their country. Some have suggested that there was some questionable behavior happening among the miners and that is why they wanted to stay to enjoy the crude behavior they were indulging in the cave.

I do not know the miners, I do not know their theology or faith, but what if their fight to be last was rooted in something deeper than fear of going back to every day Chilean life, or improper behavior? What if their desire to let others go first was based nothing other than in humility and in love?

Jesus’ disciples were caught more than on one occasion trying to win a favorable position with their rabbi. They had their own power rankings for who they that was #1 on Jesus’ list among the disciples. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 20:25-28 when he said that the great must be a servant and the first must be a slave. Perhaps the Chilean miners simply understood 1 John 3:16:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Whether that verse was known to them or not, we see the foreman especially showing true leadership and love, by not being first, but by being last. The foreman who kept the miners alive by rationing their food supply, the foreman who kept their spirits alive with his courage, made the decision that he was going to have the most noblest of positions by being the last one brought up. By making himself last he made himself first in our hearts and in the hearts of Jesus.

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