The wrath of Hurricane Harvey’s pounding the Texas Gulf coast and beyond has not just been a “poignant reminder” but a virtual neon-sign to us (and to all Christians, I hope) to offer not only empathy but tangible help.
In the first year of Ed’s and my marriage, heavy rains and a malfunctioning sump pump destroyed our basement with a flood of knee-high sewer water. Nasty as that experience was, it was small as floods go, and not remotely life-threatening. A positive result was that it created in us a particular empathy for anyone subject to floods on any level, and a desire to help such people.
The wrath of Hurricane Harvey’s pounding the Texas Gulf coast and beyond has not just been a “poignant reminder” but a virtual neon-sign to us (and to all Christians, I hope) to offer not only empathy but tangible help. Some of us can go to affected areas to provide disaster relief. For most of us for whom that’s not possible, there are alternatives: donating money, and perhaps tangible goods; or even by adopting one of the hundreds of dogs and cats moved out of shelters and North, including to Canada, to make room for pets which the flood rendered homeless.
A second flood
What has been marvelous to watch, despite the devastation, has been the countless neighbours helping neighbours: not just actual neighbours, but anyone of any race or views who they were in a position to help. Boat owners rescued people by the thousands; restauranteurs who could still function offered hot meals; at least one mattress store owner allowed displaced people to sleep on his display beds. The instances of people in trouble themselves helping people in worse trouble multiplied day by day, so much so that it made an impact around the world.
During that time I read an online discussion about why this response was so extraordinary. The consensus was that the response was based on the Christian faith of so many involved. While clearly not all Texans are Christians (amply demonstrated by looters and price-gougers taking advantage of those in need), the percentage of Christians is high. That being so, we shouldn’t see as unusual that flood of “Good Samaritans,” even those who risked their own lives to rescue others. Indeed, from the Bible’s perspective it would be peculiar (and an offense to their Lord) if people who confess Christ as Lord did not act in such a manner.
When God thrusts into adversity us who trust in him, he is testing us. He expects us to pass the test, no matter how long or arduous. The result is both a sharp honing of our own faith and a profound witness to others: to fellow Christians, certainly; but also to unbelievers, who see and marvel, and who may themselves be led to the Saviour because of that witness. The Apostle James assures us that the testing of our faith leads to perseverance (1:3). Paul asserts that suffering (as the flood victims) leads to perseverance, and perseverance to character, and character to hope (Rom. 5). Peter puts perseverance in a progression leading to godliness, mutual affection and love. Many of those persevering Good Samaritans were exhibiting that love. And they acted as a powerful example for good to fellow rescuers who may not have been motivated by faith, but who were, through God’s common grace and that example, spurred to also reach out in kindness to their neighbor.
I suspect that many of the Southern Christians affected by Harvey – both rescuers and rescued – know this old gospel hymn and have taken comfort in it, as can all of us whose Rock is Christ
The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide, A shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide, A shelter in the time of storm.
Refrain: Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land . . . A shelter in the time of storm.