There's a man who walked down a street one day. When he looked to his right, he saw a house on fire. If he didn't act quickly and warn the people inside, they would have died. He called out to the people to alert them to the danger and also called the Fire Department to put out the flames. The people inside responded to his call and so did the Fire Department. Everyone was saved and the house was repaired.
The very next day, the same thing happened. This man walked down another street and saw a house burning down. He called to the inhabitants and also phoned the Fire Department. The people escaped the danger, the fire was put out, and the house escaped complete destruction. Everyone praised this man for his decisive actions and for saving so many from the brink of destruction. He felt quite please with himself for his brave and noble actions.
So, with an eye out for impending danger, he walked down through town again. He grew frustrated when there were no fires to be seen, so he continued walking up and down the streets of the town in search of trouble. Finally, he looked in one house and saw a fire blazing in the person's living room. He raced to the front door and rang the bell. Someone answered and he told the owner of the house to get out, his house was burning down.
Naturally, the owner of the house was quite alarmed by the pronouncement. The man who came to his door spoke with great fervor and conviction. Therefore, a great anxiety filled his heart and he raced all over the house to find this fire so he might snuff it out before it consumed himself and his family. At last finding none, he came back through the living. There, he saw the source of the man's warning. Greatly assured, he came back to face the man.
'Oh, no,' he said. 'There's a fire, but it's under control.'
'No!' the self-appointed protector cried. 'You must get out! There's a fire in your house and you'll all die if you don't get out now!'
The owner of the house shook his head and went back inside. Vexed, the other man banged on the door and shouted warnings to the inhabitants of the house, but no one responded to his cries today. Convinced that those inside were in imminent danger, the man called the Fire Department.
Because of past experience with the man, the firemen rushed to the scene with horns ablazing. They kicked open the door and rushed in with hoses at the ready. The owner of the house was shocked at the intrusion, but when he saw the man who tried to warn him of doom, he shook his head.
'Thank you all for your concern," he said, "but as you can see the fire here is under control.'
He pointed toward the living room and they could all see now the fireplace that had given rise to such alarm. The self appointed protector of the town exited the house muttering that no fire was truly safe, but the firemen and owner of the house just shook their heads. Unperturbed by their disbelief, the man wandered off through the town again, searching fervently for another fire.
The man repeated his search every day. Sometimes, his warnings proved true and he saved entire families from great disasters, but other times he saw things incorrectly and his dire pronouncements produced only needless fear and anxiety in the people he sought to save.
One day, the man saw a house on fire. A few people lined up on the street watching. Horrified by the sight of the fire, the man approached the people and told them that a house was burning down.
The people looked at him with furrowed brows. "We know," they said. "It's our house."
Taken aback, the man stammered. "But, but," he said, "how can you remain so calm. Your house is on fire! You should be running around screaming, doing all you can to put it out!"
Again, the owners of house looked at him with surprise and confusion. "I don't think you see things correctly," they said. "Look over there." They pointed at a group of men with hoses, who were in the process of quenching the fire. "We called the Fire Department and they're taking care of matters."
The man turned and saw the Fire Department. They had the fire nearly under control. Still perturbed by the family's calmness in the face of such calamity, the man decided to approach the Fire Department Chief, a tall man who supervised the activities.
"Sir," he said, "there's a fire there."
The Chief cocked an eyebrow at the man. "Yes, we know."
"Well," the man stammered, "what are you going to do about it?"
At that, the Chief shook his head. "Just what we're doing, son. We're putting out the fire."
"But, but..." the man said. "Everyone's so calm. They should be in an uproar. A fire is a terrible thing."
The Chief looked the man directly in the eye. "Yes, it is, son, but the family did the right thing. They called us. We're taking care of it. You won't be needed here."
The man just stared at the Chief. He knew nothing more he could say would convince the man, but he bounced back and forth on his legs, troubled that no one would take his warnings seriously. Finally, he scurried off, looking for more people to warn.
That very night, the Fire Department Chief called together some of the inhabitants of the town. "Look," he said, "we have a problem."
"This would be protector of the town has caused major unrest. While his warnings have helped a number of you and saved you from great disaster, his actions have proven troublesome of late."
"His need to see a fire has produced many false alarms, but his ability to see actual fires cannot be discounted. Some fear to leave their homes due to concern that a fire might break out there at any time. His actions are producing fear rather than proper caution."
"We cannot have that fear, my friends. I know some of you are grateful to this man for his help, but he's spreading fear and anxiety that I will not tolerate in my town. I vote to cast him out that he may no longer scare the populace."
The town people agreed and went to carry out the Chief's decision. As they threw him out of town, he cried 'Just wait and see. When this whole town is burning down, they'll wish they had heeded my warning.'
The people of the town just shook their heads sadly because they knew he meant well. If he didn't need to see fires so badly, his valid warnings would actually be of much service, they said. With a final shake of their heads, the town people left him and went back to their lives. As they did so, many of them felt a huge weight roll off their shoulders and they were glad.
Author's note: The fire I speak of in this parable is not the fire of hell, but fires related to problems in a believer's life. Everyone in this 'town' is a believer. I say this for clarification purposes so that I may not be misunderstood.