What Can We Learn from the Tsunami?
None of us will ever forget the horrifying pictures that filled our TV screens and newspapers following December 26, 2004. Approximately 300,000 people lost their lives and millions were displaced when the tsunami hit the shores of Southeast Asia and Africa. The destruction and human suffering it left behind were worse than in a war zone.
As followers of Christ, we must urgently ask ourselves this question: How do we respond to this tragedy, and what do we learn from it? Five things stand out:
- Life here on earth is very uncertain and temporary. We sing the wonderful hymn, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through," but do we really believe and understand that this earth is not where we will be forever? Whether or not we encounter a tsunami, earthquake, accident, sickness or natural death, life here is fairly short.
Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." It is good to remember that 100 years from now, none of us will be living in our homes, driving our cars or doing whatever we are doing right now. It will be all over for us-but only here on this earth.
Death does not at all mean we cease to exist. Our spirit, the real us, never dies. Death is only a transition from this physical world into the spiritual one. Therefore, the most crucial question for each of us is this: Are we prepared for eternity? Only if we have received Christ as Lord and Savior can we be absolutely sure that we will go to heaven, should we die tonight.
- We missed an opportunity we can't get back. The whole world scrambled to get emergency aid to the tsunami survivors, to prevent an even greater disaster of disease and starvation.
I am so grateful for any relief work that has been done. However, as Christians we must ask ourselves, "Why did it have to take a tsunami for us to be concerned about those millions of poor people living in the coastal regions of Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka?" If the Body of Christ worldwide would have been burdened for them one, five or ten years ago, how many of them could have been reached with the love and salvation of Jesus Christ before they perished? It's too late now-for those who died and for us who missed the opportunity.
However, the tsunami survivors are still with us, along with millions of others across Asia who don't know the love of Christ. Let us not wait for another catastrophe to take place before we get concerned about them. Instead, let us cry out to the Lord to give us a burden for them now, and let us make a resolution to pray and share our resources to help meet their needs and introduce them to Jesus while we have the opportunity.
- We are tested. The tsunami disaster has meant unspeakable pain, agony and tears for the survivors. Yet for us who are blessed with health, strength and material goods, it is a test from God as to how we will respond to their suffering.
God knows that there is no way for us to eliminate all poverty and suffering from this fallen world. However, He desires that we demonstrate the same love and compassion to those in pain as the Lord Jesus did when He was on earth.
Is there any room in our hearts to say, "I am willing to be part of their pain and do whatever I can to help relieve their suffering"?
- In the way we respond, we will receive. One day, it will be our turn to face problems, pain and agony. How will others respond to our need? Jesus gives the answer in Luke 6:31 and 38: "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. . . . For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."
That means we can't expect to receive anything beyond the prayers, fasting, compassion and help we are willing to give others in need right now. This is a crucial lesson we must learn.
- What we do for these suffering people, we do for Jesus. Christ explains to His disciples how God evaluates their compassion ministry of feeding, clothing and caring for the suffering with these words: "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (Matthew 25:40). If we truly have that perspective, then even the lowest service to someone in need becomes a ministry to the Lord Jesus Himself. That was why Mother Teresa said she was able to spend her life cleaning the oozing wounds of lepers and caring for dying beggars with such love.
In the light of this Scripture, the anguished, tear-stained faces of the men, women and children we saw on TV are Jesus' face, crying out to us for our compassion and help. Have we responded and wiped His tears-or did we ignore Him?
Dr. K.P. Yohannan
Founder & Director of Gospel for Asia