Does anybody else think the world is getting worse? Most of us can't remember a decade when there hasn't been a war somewhere in the world. Statistics from the GRID-Arendal Map & Graphics Library records a significant increase in natural disasters across the world. And here at home, we see violence and hatred in new and unexpected ways. But what happens when these tragedies strike in your community?
How Should the Church Respond to Calamity?
In the twenty-first chapter of Luke's gospel, we read the following warning from Jesus Christ:
"When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name." (Luke 21:9-12, NIV)
All these things fit into the picture of the Christian's life. Wars, terrorism, natural disasters, and persecution are all par for the course! What should our response be? Jesus continues:
"This will result in your being witnesses to them." (Luke 21:13)
Fighting the Urge to Hide
When tragedy strikes a community, it can be paralizing. However, it is at this point in time when people are most likely to turn to God. Whether it be a prayer vigil, an open door service, or by holding special services, the Church must rise to the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
The mission of the church dates back to the very beginning in Acts 1:8 where Jesus explains, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Three Ways to Respond to Tragedy
Micah 6:8 records the Lord's requirements: "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." From purchasing and providing clean water, food, or blankets, to giving sacrificially, the church can use its finances to effect the ministry of the gospel.
Romans 12:15 admonishes us to, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." When our community suffers, we must go out of our way to acknowledge the grief and comfort those who mourn. Even Jesus looked at the city of Jerusalem and wept (cf. Luke 19:41). We must see and acknowledge the people who make up our community.
A community's biggest need is Jesus. As we seek to serve in the wake of tragedy, let us continue to pray (Eph 6:18) and to show the love of Christ. "For God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8)
How have you seen God work in your community? Share in the comments below.