Communication is key to victory. Of course, today we have incredible means of communication. But it wasn’t always so easy. In ancient days, riders on fast horses brought messages across the vast empire of Alexander the Great. Smoke signals, flags, and trumpets were used on battlefields. But it was 1979 that brought an unexpected innovation in communication, for a different kind of victory – milk carton campaigns for lost children.
Last week’s guilty verdict in the Etan Patz case marks the end of an era. Pedro Hernandez was found guilty of kidnapping and murdering the 6 year-old, Patz, in 1979. After thirty-eight years, the case that captivated a nation is finally closed.
Patz’s disappearance brought the horror of child abduction into every household in America. I was about the same age as Patz when he went missing. And though I can’t say that I specifically remember him, I distinctly remember growing up with faces on milk cartons.
Of course, today we have the Amber Alert, “code Adam” at Wal-Mart, Twitter, Facebook, and other methods of communicating emergencies instantly. But back then there was no World Wide Web. “Social media” didn’t exist.
So with cooperation from the Dairy Industry, an idea emerged. Milk cartons had ads on them. Most people buy milk. Replace the ads with pictures of lost children. “Push notifications” emerged.
Did you know that the gospel also came at a time when communication was on the brink of major change?
In the Old Testament, as prophesied by Daniel, the unshakeable Kingdom of Heaven would begin at exactly the right time in history. Jesus began His ministry accordingly: a universal language (Greek), which travelled on a new “super-highway” of roads, in the peace of the Roman era. And because of these innovations, Christians spread the good news of salvation like wildfire.
But, there was a flaw with the milk carton program – people got used to seeing those faces and quit paying attention. Some worry the Amber system might also lose the public’s attention. Sadly, it might even be possible that we could become too familiar with the extraordinary content of God’s Word, the awe of reading His story.
Communication is great, as long as listeners see the content as important. We must remain vigilant to hear and respond to important alerts. Of 184 Amber alerts in 2014, 154 resulted in recovery, 51 of which were in direct response to the alerts. So far, the system seems to be working. But what about God’s Word? Are we still seeking to save the lost with diligence?
The Bible warns us many times to guard against being “dull of hearing.” Will the Bible be the life saving message that listeners fail to hear? May it never be!
For, as important as earthly alerts are, they pale in comparison to the emergency alert of our spiritual eternity. Hear Him today, act upon His message, and warn others. In so doing, you will “save yourself and others” (1 Timothy 4:16).