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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Speak Now

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."—Martin Luther

I am late in posting this because I wanted to talk about a very controversial subject today, and that means that I needed to put a lot of serious thought into my words.  Of course, I'm talking about Haiti.  Christians should be.  After all, we claim to know and worship a God who is love, and who is near to the brokenhearted.

I think Esthermay at Heart of a Pastor's Wife did an excellent job addressing the "why" of the earthquake for those who are struggling with that.  If you need comfort on that subject, visit that link and read what she has to say.

I wanted to talk about a related subject: What is the Christian response to the disaster in Haiti?  Right now, U.S. residents are pouring money into aid organizations, trying to ensure that the Haitians have good medical care, clean drinking water, adequate food, and at least some kind of makeshift shelter.  These are all good things.  Needed things.  But they are what anyone would do if they had any tenderness in their hearts.  Is this all that Christians should be doing?

I've heard the quote, "Preach Christ, and if necessary, use words," which has been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  Living our beliefs is a good start, but I'm convinced that the world doesn't have time to wait for us to speak--and all the time we are silent, they may be reading comedy into our pantomimes.  Actions speak louder than words, but words speak more clearly than actions.  I firmly believe that Christians should be using this opportunity to preach to the country of Haiti in the middle of this disaster.

That is where many Christians vocally disagree with me, because preaching right now, when everyone is hurt and desperate for help, isn't politically correct.  Many Christians are afraid of being politically incorrect, because political incorrectness = making someone uncomfortable or angry = causing offense = being mean.  And of course, being mean is unchristian, right? Sound familiar? (Read last week's post on Non Sequitur if you don't recognize it). 

While it's true that Christian values and political correctness sometimes coincide, it doesn't follow that all Christianity is politically correct, or that it even should be.  By saying we should preach now in Haiti, I'm saying that a lot of people in Haiti need Jesus.  This is politically incorrect in itself, but somehow becomes worse because of my timing.  Furthermore, it suggests to some that I want to "take advantage" somehow of the situation to "push my beliefs."

This earthquake highlights how many thousands of people are desperately in need of the hope and comfort that only God can provide, and how many people may not have had the chance to hear those words before they died. So today I'm confronting the excuses I've heard (concerning this disaster, the tsunami disaster a few years ago, the earthquake in China, Hurricane Katrina, and so on), that Christians "shouldn't take advantage of the situation to push our beliefs," or that, "We should bide our time and earn their trust before we speak."  This need won't go away with medicine, water, food, and shelter--so why wait?
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3 NIV)
I'm not speaking against supplying the real, dire physical needs of the Haitian people.  If we withhold this aid, they will die.  But if we cower in fear of the "PC cops" (politically correct social commentators) and withhold the bread--the message--God has given us to share, the Haitians will survive this, live on for a few years, and then go to their eternal deaths.  Do they have time to wait for us?

The Grip of Fear

This topic has burdened my heart for a decade now.  When is it a "good time" to talk about Jesus with someone who is hurting?

So many people have been telling me that Christians can't be confrontational, calling sin evil and condemning it, when they are preaching about Christ, especially when they are preaching to people who are already hurting.  People aren't supposed to convert because they're afraid, I've heard.  Also, I don't want to talk about Jesus right now, because I need to be sensitive to this person's pain.

I don't buy it.  Honestly, these words are spoken out of fear of the repercussions of being openly Christian in a godless world.  These people don't want to offend, not because they actually care about another's feelings, but rather because they want to protect their own skin.  That, my friends, is terribly heartless.  While Christians are worrying about "feelings," people are dying without being challenged in their lost condition.  Do we really want a whole generation to stand before God and say in their own defense, "But, God, nobody told me it was a sin"?

Fear is one of Satan's most effective tools against Christians, and so far, political correctness is another inroad for that fear. Our Christian mission is to preach Christ and serve Him at every opportunity, because God wants to save as many as possible before He has to judge the world (2 Timothy 4: 1-3; 2 Peter 3:9; Acts 17:30-32).  If we really claim to follow Jesus, we don't have room for excuses.

Can Christians go into disaster zones and get in trouble for talking about Jesus?  Sure.  In a disaster, there will be people who are angry at God, and they may lash out at Christians because of that anger.  Still, we have to take that chance, because we have Christ--something the world doesn't--and we don't have time to warm people up with cookies.  If God is in what we are doing, we will be able to deliver our message.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.(2 Corinthians 2: 14-16 NIV)

The Time to Act

I saw a video of smoke rising from Port-Au-Prince, and a woman's voice shouted, "The world is coming to an end!"  Her words gripped my heart.  What if it had been the end of the world?  All those people facing eternity in darkness and torment.  Only God can rescue, but did they all know Him?

When a disaster rises to the world consciousness, many people start thinking about eternity, and how their lives hang by a thread in the balance.  When in pain, people look for God.  We should be there to introduce Him--now, not later.  If trouble is the only way that people feel the need for God, why make them live through any more of it before introducing them to their Source of help?  What if today is their last day?

I'm praying for our missionaries out there, that they will speak the Good News boldly, and that God will be able to use them to reach out to these hurting people.  If you feel God calling you to go there and preach about Him, do so without delay.

I know it's probably an empty hope in this instance, but I'm also praying that my own words will help someone come to know Him.  About six months ago, someone from Port-Au-Prince came to this site and according to my site feed, printed something off.  I'm sure the printout is long gone now, but I'm praying that God has used something I've said to make Himself known there.  However God chooses to reach people, whether through men and women present on the ground, or through some obscure woman in the U.S., I celebrate it. For now, I'll continue to make Jesus known in the time I've been given.


Esthermay Bentley-Goossen said...

I have a burden for the Lord to raise up individuals who would not simply know how to share their faith (good grief – we’ve got classes for that...) but would actually DO IT!

Jesus is our perfect example when He talked to the woman at the well in John Chapter 4. The transition is not that big of deal – Jesus did it when the common ground was simple water!! So anyone with common sense could figure out the transition to share CHRIST in the most opportune of times: a Natural Disaster!

I agree with you that one of Satan’s most effective tools to halt the spread of Salvation is this whole idea of political correctness. It has crept into the Church by way of pragmatism and we now have entire generations of Christians who have removed the entire Book or Romans from their Bibles and are afraid to confront sin! If we don’t confront sin, there’s no reason for SALVATION!!!

oH! I could go on and on and on... I won’t :)

This is an excellent post. If more Christians were concerned with the condition of people’s souls and less concerned with human comfort, we would be a better version of the CHURCH as laid out in the New Testament. We have failed.

Rachel said...

Thank you, Esthermay! It's so encouraging to read that other people are feeling the same way! And yes, I could go on and on about this, too. I just spent two days trying to cut this post down to a reasonable length. :)
It's so important that the Church looks to Jesus, not the world, for its direction. And Jesus wasn't considerate of the Pharisee's feelings when He told them they were sinners.
We cannot stay silent. They need to hear the truth, and now is the best time.

Shannon said...

Thank you for challenging us. Whether in a natural disaster or just in everyday situations, there isn't a "wrong" moment to talk about Christ! If I need Him to sustain me in every minute of every hour, why would I deny that gift to others? It isn't a question of whether they need Him right now--of course they do!

"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Matthew 9:37).