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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Firefighter Parable #3 – The Uniform

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
-The Gospel of St. John, Chapter Thirteen, Verse 35

We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

-The First Epistle of St. John, Chapter Four, Verses 19-21

One of the first ways that we think we can identify a firefighter is by their uniform. Think about it – how does a child do a firefighter impression? He puts on his fire hat!

Although there are certainly variations by precinct or district, firefighter uniforms have obvious similarities. They all have helmets. These helmets have larger bills in the back than in the front, and the front will have identifying information about what firefighting unit the wearer is in. Firefighters wear gloves and boots – and we aren’t talking about red and white Timberlands or Fubus. They are heavy boots that are at least below-the-knee high. Firefighter pants are long, thick and held up by suspenders. The coat of a firefighter also can have some variations, but it is always long, fastens with snaps and/or clasps (not zippers), and has some reflective properties.

The variations are usually color, placement of reflective material, and unit distinctive insignia. None of the variations significantly influence the performance of the firefighter.

Unfortunately, none of the observable elements of the firefighter’s uniform tell us whether the uniform is real. Real firefighter gear (coat, gloves, boots, pants) include significant amounts of Nomex or Aramid fibers, which are fire resistant. The helmet, in addition to being shiny and shaped a certain way, is made of Kevlar or another aramidic material that is strong and heat resistant.

As the appearance of the uniform doesn’t not give us an indication of the uniform’s actual construction, it is pretty easy to trick people into thinking you are a firefighter. Realistic Halloween costumes are available and very convincing. If I saw someone with a uniform that met the visual description above, I would initially think they are a firefighter. The only way I would know if they were not (assuming I only have access to their uniform) would be to see if the uniform is made of the right materials – which can be determined through touch…assuming I know what a firefighter’s uniform feels like!

Of course, someone can get a real firefighter’s uniform and trick us that way. There is, however, a place where only a firefighter in a real uniform goes – a burning building. No one in a firefighter costume would enter a burning building and try to save people, nor would someone who simply has a uniform. Thus, in order to discern if a person is a firefighter by their uniform, you need to either be familiar with the feel of the uniform to know it’s composition, or you need to be in a burning building. The former is preferred. Either way, it would not be the appearance of the uniform, but its construction, that makes it a real uniform worn by a real firefighter.

The uniform is the most easily faked identification for firefighters. Those who are not firefighters can’t tell if someone is really one or not (with varying degrees depending upon their knowledge of real firefighters). Those who are real firefighters can only tell by getting close enough to discern the materials.

What is the uniform of a Christian? Well, some things come to mind with that phrase. A Bible. A Bible cover. A WWJD bracelet. A VeggieTales shirt. A Jesus fish on the car. An angel pin on your lapel. A Stephen Curtis Chapman CD…or seven. Praying hands on your desk. A Prayer of Jabez bookmark. The Left Behind Series. The Purpose Driven Life.

Lots of Christians have these things. Are they the uniform? Yes, and no. They are uniforms in the same way that the fire hat is. When you see someone with it, you think, “firefighter”. However, these things are just the shape, sheen and insignia on the hat, not the material.

How about conduct? Christians show their faith through love, right? Isn’t that the verse, they will know we are Christians by our love? That love for our fellow man is like the design of the coat – it has to be a coat that covers us, or it isn’t a real uniform. However, there are lots of covering coats, and lots of compassionate and understanding people who are not Christians.

What is the uniform of the Christian? Like the Aramidic materials in the uniform, cannot be seen from the outside. The uniform of the Christian is the love for others born of the Holy Spirit present in their hearts and lives. However, someone who does not know what the Holy Spirit feels like could be easily deceived, just as we can be easily deceived by fake firefighter outfits. That is a big reason why non-Christians think there are so many Christians. They see the trappings of Christianity with someone, and don’t know what to really look for. Additionally, those who never get close enough to feel that material can’t tell that the uniform is a fake, even if they know what it should feel like. That’s how televangelists swindled thousands and some church leaders, who are also not Christians, mislead many today.

Also, the best lie is 99% true. A uniform that is perfect in color, weight, shape and size will fool most people, even those who should know better. The same applies to Christians, who can be deceived by someone who says the right things, seems compassionate and loving, goes to the right places and seems to know their Bible and its application. All that, without the love born of the Holy Spirit, is a lie.

In burning buildings, it is evident who the firefighters are. However, we are not in a burning building. Where are the spiritual burning buildings? Sudan. North Korea. China. Saudi Arabia. Pakistan. Indonesia. No fake Christian walks around there – because those who claim to be Christians are killed or imprisoned.

In summary – Christians love others. That love isn’t like, and it sure isn’t lust, and it isn’t a grandfatherly “whatever makes the kids happy” love. It is a love helps those in need and that wants, demands and helps those we love strive to be the best they can, and not remain in mediocrity of spirit. However, just because someone is kind, compassionate and loving doesn’t mean they are a Christian.

And that Jesus fish? The Nomex works with or without it. After all, smoke jumpers' helmets don't look like firefighters' helmets at all - but they are.

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
- The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter Twenty-Four, Verse 24


  • All good points. I don't disagree with any of them really. But one important thing is missing from the uniform. The most important thing really.

    The Badge!! My badge is what makes me a firefighter. Because without the authority of the Fire Chief, I'm just another wannabe. Only the Chief can give me the badge thus making me a firefighter. Many people desire to be firefighters, but most don't have what it takes or aren't willing to do what is necessary to be given the badge.

    By Blogger pyrosapien2819, at 8/25/2006 03:09:00 AM  

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