Friday, January 15, 2010

Responding to Haiti

I read with a mixture of incredulity and embarrassment that a prominent evangelical was telling viewers to his TV show that Haiti had brought this disaster upon themselves.

Perhaps I'm more embarrassed for God, who is being so misrepresented by such a perspective. I don't know.

This morning, as I continue preparations for Sunday, I stood in front of a flip chart and wrote down:

What does the Gospel offer the people of Haiti?

This is the rough outline of my thoughts.

Firstly is does not offer judgement or self-help solutions. It doesn't theorise or theologise about the circumstances. It just gets stuck in and does something.

It offers faith, hope and love.

Love, because an earthquake does not mean that God has stopped loving Haitian people. Love, because loving one another both inside and outside the church is a cornerstone of what it means to be human, made in the image of a loving God.

It offers hope because whilst we can't stop earthquakes from happening, they do not define who we are and they do not define our Haitian brother and sisters. They remain people dearly loved by God and made in his image, just as we are. Death, destruction, poverty, homelessness might describe them at the moment but they do not define them.

It offers faith. Faith that there is a bigger picture, an eternal context for the suffering and loss happening all around us. We live in a fallen world, we cannot escape the truth that sin brings judgement, but that's not the whole story. While we may live in a fallen world, even a judged world, we experience grace in bucketfuls. We see grace as people are pulled from the carnage alive long after the rescuers ever expected to find anything but bodies. I'm sure that over the coming weeks we will hear stories of amazing escapes and incredible survival. We see grace in the financial and practical responses of nations. Grace will abound.

The gospel also offers compassion as people respond with gifts and time and energy and expertise. And it offers compassion as Jesus weeps at the graveside of his friend Lazarus and over the city of Jerusalem. If you think God remains unmoved by tragedy then you are very much mistaken.

If I were preparing this as a sermon to preach, and I may choose to drop my prepared talk for Sunday and reflect on these things instead, then I'd want to finish with a question:

How can we be kingdom people to the people of Haiti?

Three things come to mind.

We can pray. We should already be praying, but we can always pray. We can pray for the grieving, the hungry, the injured, the survivors, the aid workers, those who would look to use the situation to their advantage, all sorts of people need our prayers at this time.

Secondly we can give. Through organisations we know or directly through the Disaster Emergency Committee. It really doesn't matter through whom you give, it matters that you give.

Thirdly we can go. Some may have skills they can offer, some may just have a heart to offer. I don't know what opportunities may or may not exist now or in the near future, but it's worth a prayer isn't it? "God, if I can do something practical, show me what it is, open a door for me to become involved." Next to "Go" on my flipchart I wrote "Habit for Humanity". I was just wondering if later, after the immediate relief work is done, whether they might be involved in some rebuilding work. I can swing a hammer reasonably well. You never know and you should never exclude the possibility that God might call you to be the answer to the prayer you are praying.

So there we go. It's not fully thought through, it's just my response at this moment in time. It's not eloquent, it won't be read by more than a handful of people, it won't be nationally syndicated. But I don't care about that at all. I do care about the people of Haiti who need God's mercy not our judgement.

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