// action and reaction

Fantastic blog from Pastor Jamie Mundon over at Mars Hill church, Seattle today. Mars Hill’s response to what happened in Haiti has been truly inspiring, not least because of how shaken they’ve let themselves be by it. It’s a huge church – 9000 people attended its services this Sunday gone – and yet its main teaching pastor jettisoned his commitments this past fortnight and flew out to Haiti to observe, pray and support; they’ve altered their programme and their giving schedules specifically to accommodate what happened and proven that they’re not afraid to tackle weighty (and complex) issues head-on…

In contrast, it feels a little bit like the reaction of some of us over in Britain has been more akin to keeping a “stiff upper lip”; not that we’re not horrified by the scenes of destruction, but, you know, life has to go on, and we have to suck up the pain and get on with doing things the way that they have to be done.

Is this the way it’s supposed to be?

By the way, i get that it might seem callous to be talking about our reactions to what is indisputably a tragedy; after all, if you’re reading this, then in all likelihood your conditions of life are a world apart from post-earthquake Haiti, and they clearly have it worse than us. But honestly, our reactions to these things are important; those are the things that shape our culture, like it or not.

If we are struck by what happened overseas but we do nothing, then our concern amounts to little more than emotion. We accept that ‘these things happen’, and we get on with life; it’s pretty easy to feel cushioned from what goes on elsewhere in the world over here.

If Haiti doesn’t cause us to remember that life is fragile, that our health and security are an incredible gift (and something to be truly thankful for) then we have missed something. If Haiti doesn’t drive us to gratitude for all that we have been given and a desire to live in a way that makes the most of it, then something is wrong. And if Haiti, two weeks on, when it’s vanished from the media, hasn’t changed something about our church – even if it’s just the appreciation of how amazing our life here is – then that is a cause for great sorrow.

I read a haunting passage this morning. Isaiah 5:25 describes God’s anger against His people:

Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against His people,

And He stretched out His hand against them and struck them,

And the mountains quaked;

And their corpses were as refuse

In the midst of the streets…

It sounds like Haiti on a first reading, doesn’t it? And the first time you read it, it seems to confirm that whole “divine punishment” thesis, too.

They lived in rich houses, they partied all night, they rejected God… didn’t they?

That’s why the earth swallowed them up, right – that’s why “Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure”?

Well… uh, not so much, actually.

But us? What if this sort of situation were to expose just how apathetic God’s people were when it came to addressing these situations – or even being aware of them?

Because the rest of Isaiah 5 talks about how God “looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!” It declares “woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight… their root will be rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust.” Among other things.

What would the people who look like they have all the answers look like? What would a world look like where “[God’s] people go into exile for lack of knowledge”, where “their honoured men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst”? Could it not – just possibly – look like we do?

Isaiah 5 ends with the words, “if one looks to the land, behold, darkness and distress; and the light is darkened by its clouds.”

For all the light of our church – and there is light, make no mistake –  if we are untouched by situations like Haiti, not shaken by the economic conditions that made it possible, not disturbed by the chaos that is reigning in the streets, then it’s all too possible that our light will be dimmed.

I don’t say any of this as someone who’s any good at it; and it’s certainly not intended as condemnation. It is hard, and painful, to address something as awful as 150,000 people dying in a couple of minutes, and it’s easier to move on. A friend of mine just walked into the room and remarked “you can’t cry for two solid weeks – you just can’t,” and he’s right, of course he is. Life does have to go on – so we declare “we will not be shaken”, and we’re not. Fantastic. God is still good. But that is no call to put the blinkers on or hide behind a cushion of wealth or security. God is good in the midst of a world that is a mess, but we have to acknowledge the mess too, because it’s in that we learn to appreciate just how good He truly is.

Haiti is already a tragedy. But if nothing changes in us as a result of what we have seen and heard – well then that, too, will be a tragedy.

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    • anonymous
    • January 29th, 2010

    JESUS SAID THERE WOULD BE EARTHQUAKES
    Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. –Mark 13:8

    GOD DID CREATE DARKNESS, AND ITS POTENTIAL
    7 I form the light and create darkness,
    I bring prosperity and create disaster;
    I, the LORD, do all these things. -Isaiah 45:7

    IT IS NOT OUR PLACE TO JUDGE THOSE WHO SUFFER…
    1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
    2 Jesus answered, Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?
    3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
    4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them— do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?
    5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
    -Luke 13:1-5

    …BUT TO HELP THEM
    Isaiah 58:6-7

    WHY SHOULD NATURAL DISASTERS ESPECIALLY DISENCHANT US OF OUR IDEA OF GOD? EVERY HUMAN LIFE IS AS VALUABLE AS THE NEXT (IMMEASURABLY SO).
    there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. –Luke 15:7

    DO WE THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS REMEMBERING THAT THIS LIFE IS JUST A PRELUDE TO ETERNITY?
    1 Cor 15:12-28; Luke 12:4-7

    DO WE REMEMBER THAT CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO SUFFERING?
    Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. -1 Peter 4:1

    DO WE REMEMBER THAT CHRIST SUFFERED INNCOENTLY FOR OUR SAKE?
    But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because
    Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
    “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
    who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return;
    when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;
    who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness –
    by whose stripes you were healed.
    For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
    1 Peter 2:20-25 (NKJV)

    -anon

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