Weep and then Repair

There are some, perhaps many, who view evangelical Christians as the religious equivalent of ambulance chasing lawyers. They feed on pain and tragedy for selfish gain. It’s an opportunity to cram their message of faith in Christ down the throats of people who are desperate and frightened. This unflattering reputation has been deserved in some cases. There are some in the evangelical camp who see value in nothing else but “rescuing souls from the flames of hell.” Their own reading of the New Testament and understanding of the scope of God’s redemption leave no room for valuing temporal, bodily, earthly compassion. It is a warped and in my view fundamentally unchristian way of responding to pain. What’s unfolding in Japan right now is an opportunity for us to think more Christianly, and Christ-like-ly, about how we respond to the terrible realities of our broken planet. My mind goes immediately to Jesus in John 11. Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha and friend of Jesus, has died. When Jesus arrives at the scene four days later it is one of grief and mourning. Mary falls at his feet. When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:33-36) Notice what Jesus does not do. He does not see their pain and grief as an opportunity to talk about sin, repentance, of the fires of hell. And he does not use the tragedy as a chance to inflate the ranks of his own followers or give some theological explanation for the illness and death of Lazarus. What he does do is share in their grief. By doing so he acknowledges the wrongness of death, the bitter pain that it brings, and the reality of it’s sting. This is the Christian’s first response to the tragedy in Japan. We are invited to weep along with the Japanese at the loss and destruction and death. Those who would leap over this empathy and head straight for an evangelistic opportunity lack something of Christ’s character. Sadly and ironically, they may be putting their mission to save people ahead of God’s call to love people. But Jesus’ does more than weep with Mary and Martha. He then raised Lazarus from the grave (John 11:43-44). He undid what death had done. He repaired what was broken. “I am the resurrection and the life,” he told Martha, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). As those who belong to Christ, we are called to do more than weep over the brokenness in our world. We are called to repair it. No, we cannot undo the earthquake or demand the sea to return those it took. The healing of the natural world awaits the day when it too will be set free from corruption and share in the glory of God’s new creation which only he can accomplish (Romans 8). But we can, and must, do all in our power to heal and repair. These efforts have already begun in Japan with aid, food, workers, and medicine arriving. And many of those helping, although certainly not all, are motivated by their Christian faith. Is the Japanese earthquake and tsunami an “opportunity for the church” as some have said? Yes, but not the selfish sort of opportunity. It is an opportunity for the church to weep and repair; to be the hands and feet of Christ to those who need his healing presence. No Christian should be celebrating the scenes coming out of Japan right now, just as no physician would celebrate if a stranger at a restaurant suddenly had a heart attack. But such an event would present an opportunity for the doctor to do what he has been trained and called to do. Likewise, the horrors in Japan offer an opportunity for Christians in the church and relief agencies to do what they have been called and equipped by Christ to do–to weep and to repair.

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