This is the story of Kelvin Cochran, former Atlanta Fire Chief.
But it’s so much more. It is really the story of how to glorify God when you are being persecuted.
It’s how to publicly express your faith in love when the world hates you.
It’s seeing the miracle of God using for good what they meant for evil.
The beginning of the story is that Kelvin Cochran, family man, Baptist, Sunday School teacher, men’s Bible study leader, and Atlanta Fire Chief, wrote a book in 2013 stemming from his bible study class, entitled “Who Told You That You Are Naked?” The title refers to the moment in Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, and hid from God when they heard Him walking in the garden. God asked the man and woman, “who told you that you were naked?” Throughout his book, Cochran also refers to being naked as being not-covered with the righteousness of Christ.
In Cochran’s book when he refers to naked men, of course he isn’t being literal. It refers to the nakedness unsaved people live in with being exposed to Jesus without the covering of His righteous blood.
Mr Cochran shares his faith, something that he stated in the book that “it’s his first priority within the department “to cultivate its culture to the glory of God.” Chief Cochran has said in many interviews that this job as the Atlanta City Fire Chief is a dream come true. That ever since he was five years old, he has pursued a career as a firefighter. And yet for all that focused intent on pursuing his life’s dream, he puts Jesus first. The purpose of Kelvin Cochran’s life is to glorify God, and the Fire Station is just as good a place as any other on earth in which to be Christ-like and to speak of his faith. Where Chief Cochran loves to be is the Station, where he longs to be is with Jesus. His duty as a Christian is to show people his love for Jesus in heaven while Cochran is still on earth.
Along the way, he published a book. It’s aimed at men, how to be good husbands, leaders, men, based on God’s standards for doctrine and for life. In it, Cochran spelled out exactly what God’s standards for purity are, purity in works, purity in thought, and including sexual purity.
“Uncleanness – whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion.”
“Naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex, and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body – temple and dishonor God.”
Less than a half a page in the 160-page book mentioned homosexuality.
That doesn’t matter to the homosexual people.
The First Amendment of the United States’ national constitution, part of the United States’ Bill of Rights, says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Not for Kelvin Cochran. Not for an increasing number of Christians.
The Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transsexual lobby discovered the book’s existence in November of 2014, and raised an outcry. Cochran was suspended with no pay for one month. He was due back to work this week.
Various reasons were given for his suspension.
–he distributed the book on government property without prior consent of the Mayor (his boss)
–he failed to alert the Mayor he was writing the book
–his views likely mean he has in the past, or will in the future, discriminate against LGBT people in hiring practices at the Fire Station
–his book is in violation of the city’s standard of conduct
–his language is so extreme, so belittling of gay and transgender people that he could not effectively lead a diverse workforce
During the one-month suspension, no one heard from Cochran. On Sunday, January 3, he did speak at Atlanta’s First Baptist church during the GA Baptist Convention regarding his testimony. The Times-Herald reported,
Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin J. Cochran spoke to the “blessings of suffering” during his message delivered at First Baptist Church on Sunday. Coming off a one-month suspension because of a passage on homosexuality in a self-published book he wrote, Cochran expressed that his time off allowed him to spend more time with his family and enjoy the Christmas season
“God intended for men and women are to be together to have children and populate the Earth,” Cochran said. “And any sex outside marriage and outside of a man and woman in holy matrimony is against the word of God. For that stand, I have been laid off for 30 days without pay.” However, Cochran emphasized that he is not a victim of his beliefs, nor is he discouraged or disheartened.
I love our city, and honor and respect our mayor and love all the people of the world,” Cochran said. “I took an oath to die for all people, under any circumstance. This is not about me, it’s about the Lord.” Cochran stated that his reputation was not on the line. “I took a stand for Christ, and it’s his reputation that is on the line,” he said. “Jesus never throws us under the bus. He will be glorified and I will be vindicated once all the truth comes out.”
On Monday, the one-month suspension was to be concluded. Mayor Kasim Reed was to have pondered, investigated and come to a decision. He did.
The LGBT members of our community have a right to be able to express their views and convictions about sexuality and deserve to be respected for their position without hate or discrimination,” Cochran told me in an exclusive interview. “But Christians also have a right to express our belief regarding our faith and be respected for our position without hate and without discrimination. In the United States, no one should be vilified, hated or discriminated against for expressing their beliefs.”
Mayor Reed disagrees that it is about religious faith. Reed says it is about judgment. Chief Cochran’s judgment that is, being impaired due to extreme views.
There is some back and forth about Mayor Reed’s knowledge of Cochran’s book. A sort of what did Reed know and when did he know it?
Reed said that he had no knowledge that Cochran was writing a book. However, Cochran said the director of Atlanta’s ethics office had not only given him permission to write the book, but to also mention in his biography that he was the city’s fire chief. Cochran said he gave a copy of the book to Mayor Reed in January 2014 and the mayor told him he planned on reading it during an upcoming trip.
Cochran wants to make clear that he does not hate anyone. “The essence of the Christian faith is a love without condition, sir,” he told me. “I have demonstrated that love in the fire service for 34 years. There’s not any person of any people group that has interacted with me for any measure of time that can say I have hate or disregard or discrimination in my heart for any people group.”
Ex-Chief Cochran says he has no plans to appeal.
What does the bible say about situations like these?
1. They are inevitable. If you’re a witnessing, mature Christian in the world, you will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12). None of this is a surprise to Chief Cochran. None of it should be a surprise to you or me, either. Our response to persecution is key. Cochran said he is not a victim of his beliefs nor is he disheartened or discouraged. I am sure that in addition, Chief Cochran feels blessed in some measure to be sharing the persecution of His king.
The Hatred of the World … “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (John 15:19-20)
2. Turn the other cheek. Chief Cochran demonstrated the values Jesus imposed in Matthew 5:39, when Cochran says he hates no one, loves all people.
But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
John MacArthur said in his blog essay Persecution and Submission,
…when persecution comes to the church, true believers don’t flee. Nor do they fight back against the persecution, or try to protest or legislate it away. Instead, authentic Christians submit to persecution.
3. He honors his boss. Mayor Reed had asked Chief Cochran not to speak to the media during the one-month suspension, and Cochran did not. Prior to that, Cochran said he’d gone to his boss’s Ethics Committee to receive advice on the protocols regarding the book he was writing, and he said he also gave a copy to his boss. Cochran was doing the proper thing with his superior officers. The Chief says he has no plans to appeal. The bible says,
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, (1 Peter 2:13).
4. Remember that the world has an illogical mind when it comes to sin. Mayor Reed said of Cochran:
“His judgment and ability to manage the department was the subject of this inquiry.” Here is Cochran’s bio, and mind you, it’s only an excerpt. There’s more.
Kelvin J. Cochran serves as First Vice President and Director of International Association Of Fire Chiefs Inc. His formal education post High School includes the U.S. Fire Administration National Fire Academy, Wiley College, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management (1999). In 2009, President Obama appointed him as the U.S. fire administrator for the United States Fire Administration. Mr. Cochran holds a Masters Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech (2004). Previously, he was a 26-year-veteran of Shreveport, LA fire department, having joined as firefighter in 1981, progressing through the ranks of training officer and assistant chief training officer before becoming fire chief in 1999.
It seems to me that his ‘ability to lead and manage the department’ would be stellar, and in fact, has been for 6 years. What I ask is, would the same level of scrutiny be present with an LGBT person leading and managing the department? Would they have sound judgment and no bias when it comes to hiring, training, and leading Christian folk they know object to their lifestyle? Of course not. But sin makes the carnal mind illogical, they have a debased mind. That means they don’t think straight. (Romans 1:28). We understand that and simply continue showing the love of Christ, as Chief Cochran has done.
5. Trust the Lord. Chief Cochran ended his message to the Convention gathered at Fist Baptist Church by reciting Psalm 27, which he had memorized,
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations … Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
6. The LORD always uses His people for Good. Chief Cochran knows that good will come from this. It has already. Many people, I’m sure, are encouraged by his response and take inspiration from it. I’m one of them. He is providing a template for how to respond when persecution comes to my door. The bible says,
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20).
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28).