By Michael E. Brooks
“But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but me you do not have always’ ” (Mark 14:6-7 NKJV).
For the past few weeks the news has focused upon the disastrous earthquake in Haiti. Estimates of dead, injured, and homeless have continuously escalated until the total of all such damage exceeds one million victims.
The economic and environmental impact is far greater even than those figures suggest. It is probably true that there will ultimately be none of the population who is not directly affected. The rebuilding of the infrastructure of the country is estimated to take at least ten years.
Tiny fragments of good news continue to arrive from that devastated nation, however. Just recently, a full two weeks after the quake, word came of the discovery and rescue of a 17 year-old girl from the rubble. Faint hope remains of other survivors.
Does it seem that such disasters are more frequent and more extensive than ever before? Just since the turn of the new millennium (2000) there has been the tsunami in the Indian Ocean; Hurricane Katrina in the U.S.A. (just one of several damaging storms in that country alone); a devastating cyclone in Bangladesh (Sidyr, in 2006), and another about a year later in Myanmar (Burma); and another major earthquake in Indonesia.
Other storms, earthquakes and disasters have occurred elsewhere on barely lesser scales. These do not even take into account the toll of wars, terrorist attacks and other horrors. Truly these have been tragic times in too many places, for far too many people.
We are properly appalled at these instances of human suffering. If there is good news in this picture it is the continually repeated story of global efforts to bring relief to the victims.
Hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers turn out in almost every instance. Our hearts are warmed and our faith in human goodness is restored.
I certainly do not want to minimize or cast any aspersions on the seriousness of such suffering, or the wonderful generosity and love demonstrated by those who help.
Yet I cannot help but apply the words of Jesus with which this article began to these events. Like the poor, natural disasters and their victims are always with us.
Helping the poor and needy, including the victims of disaster, is part of his work and certainly is a means of expressing Christian faith and love (James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17-18). We must never shirk from the opportunity to do this (Galatians 6:10).
Yet there is one thing that is even more important and urgent. That is confronting the disaster of sin which threatens the lives of the entire population of this world.
Haiti’s earthquake will affect its 8 or 9 million people for the next decade or so. Sin, if unforgiven, will condemn the earth’s population of nearly 7 billion for all eternity. Does that fact appall us and spark us to action as does an earthquake? Should it not?
Jesus warned the disciples that he would not always be with them, therefore those works that emphasized serving him were of special value. Similarly we are reminded that the opportunity to teach the lost and prepare them for eternity is limited and brief (Hebrews 3:13).
Our work is urgent.
Recently, millions of people learned of the rescue of one teenager in Haiti and rejoiced. No doubt also at various places throughout the world that same day men and women of all ages learned of Jesus Christ and received salvation for all eternity through obedient faith in him. How many rejoiced at that? We know for certain that “the angels in the presence of God” did (Luke 15:10).
Let us continue to respond to the great (and not so great) physical disasters which cause suffering in this world. But can we not also respond even more to the ongoing spiritual disaster which is so much more devastating and tragic?
“The harvest truly is plentiful; but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).
By Michael E. Brooks