Nearly a month has passed since the massive earthquake off the eastern coast of Japan, and the situation there has shown few signs of improvement in recent days. Not only are the people dealing with the loss of life and destruction due to the fifth-strongest earthquake in recorded history (and the subsequent tsunami), but they are also struggling to contain enormous amounts of radiation from various nuclear reactors in the area. What are we to make of these events? How should we as followers of Christ respond? We have a number of options:
Response #1: This is a sign of the end times. I don’t believe this is the case. Although Jesus did mention earthquakes and wars and famines in Matthew 24, we also read in 1 Kings 19 that God is not always to be found in natural phenomena. God created this world, but he created it to be constantly changing: seasons, tides, warming and cooling periods, and even earthquakes. If anything, Jesus’s words in Matthew 24 challenge us to remain faithful to him even when tragedies and suffering occur in our own lives – not just in the world around us. The technological advances in our culture allow us to see events all over the world almost instantaneously; I do not believe that the events themselves are any more significant than they have been throughout human history.
Response #2: We should spiritually support the people of Japan through this crisis. This is certainly a reasonable response, especially for people of faith. We have brothers and sisters in Christ in all parts of the world, so our extended family has been affected dramatically by recent events in Japan. We should mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice; we should lift up to the Lord those who are suffering through grief, destruction, and radiation poisoning. Prayer is a powerful tool, and we should not limit our application of prayer to our own personal needs.
Response #3: We should financially support the people of Japan through this crisis. This brings up the issue of stewardship of resources. The Lord has blessed us tremendously, whether we realize it or not. Consider this: have you thrown away edible food in the past month? If so, then you are quite rich when compared to the rest of the world. We have the ability to give to charitable organizations when disasters occur; last year’s earthquake in Haiti is a prime example. However, we need to take into account the financial situation of the people who are suffering. Haiti and Japan are in two very different financial positions. Japan is much more likely to be able to take care of its own needs; our charity and financial support will be more useful in other situations, even those in our own communities.
Response #4: We should prepare for the unexpected in our own lives. I think this is the most healthy response for us today. I don’t mean that we should stock up on canned goods and medical supplies, just in case the unthinkable happens in our part of the world. What I mean is this: we should be in constant relationship with the Lord, continually turning from sin and pursuing holiness. We should be ready to stand before the Lord as a result of tragedy or sacrifice at a moment’s notice. And we should make the most of every opportunity to share the message of Jesus Christ with those around us who are not in relationship with him. Even helping with the real-life issues facing people in our community is a way for us to witness to the reality of Christ, as long as we do these things in his name.
Your reading assignment for the week is 2 Timothy, the second letter written by Paul to Timothy, the young church leader. It’s only four chapters long, so see if you can read it all in one sitting. As you read it, ask yourself this question: what does this letter say our response should be to a world that is falling apart?