I understand that one group is reporting an undesirable milestone for the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Last year, marked its deadliest year as far as the number of people who committed suicide by jumping off the structure.
This report seems to be stirring up support for a longtime proposal — the construction of some kind of safety net to thwart the efforts of such jumpers. The main impediment to the fulfillment of this idea has been the cost, which some say will exceed $60 million.
On the one hand, I suppose such a net might eliminate an easy way to carry out such an act, deterring those who may take that horrible step on the spur of the moment. But on the other hand, if someone is serious about ending his or her life, a safety net under one bridge will not stop that person. The individual will simply find some other way to carry out the deed.
I’m certainly no expert on the subject, but it seems like our primary focus should be on the reasons people want to commit suicide in the first place — helping people deal with the issues which get them to that place of jumping off a bridge. Spending millions of dollars on a safety net may be a secondary solution, but it seems to be an example of treating the symptom rather than curing the disease.
It reminds me of the way some people view what Jesus has accomplished for us. They see Him as simply having constructed a safety net for people, a means by which individuals can avoid the consequences of their sins. Rightfully, they recognize that Jesus died on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins in order for a holy God to be able to graciously bestow forgiveness on otherwise hopelessly lost sinners like us.
Jesus paid a high price in order to spare us from having to face the results we deserve for having stepped off the pathway of obedience to God’s will. The Bible clearly declares that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Spiritual and eternal death is what we all deserve.
God’s Word suggests that hell may not have been designed for us, but rather for the devil and his angels. However, because of our sin, we do deserve such a fate. But those who put their faith in Jesus are saved from taking that plunge into the depths of the fiery pit. So yes, through Jesus thankfully we do have a safety net to catch us.
But if Jesus had stopped there, He too would have been guilty of only treating the symptom rather than curing the disease. Jesus doesn’t just save us from the consequences of our sinful choices. He also changes us and saves us from our sinful selves.
Salvation doesn’t just mean we can keep jumping off the bridge of disobedience to God, assured that Jesus will keep us from spiritual ruin. Salvation means Jesus can transform our hearts to such an extent that we don’t want to keep living in sin.
We can find power and grace to start living more in harmony with God’s will and plan for our lives. The Bible declares that we are no longer to continue in sin but are to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-4).
I’m glad that Jesus catches us when we fall. But I’m also grateful that He so works in our lives that He can keep us from falling in the first place.
Let’s quit testing God’s safety net so often, and instead experience the daily victory of not even wanting to take the plunge.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.