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It’s hard to grasp the magnitude of what has occurred. As I write this blog, the death count has risen to 20,000. But because the situation in both countries is still so fluid, one has to believe that there are even more souls that have perished. It is a tragedy. Since it is winter and the temperatures have been cold, there will be, no doubt, people who will die of the elements before they are discovered. The misery of the injured and trapped, the overwhelming anxiety of loved ones and families of the missing and the dead, as well as the psychological trauma that has occurred is difficult to comprehend. If we have a modicum of compassion, we will pray for the living victims in both countries, as well as look for opportunities to give for the relief of these suffering people. The Red Cross is asking for funds for body bags to allow for dignified burials. The Christian organization, Samaritan’s Purse immediately began to deploy a 52-bed emergency field hospital to address immediate needs. Furthermore, since many are now suffering from cold and shock, many Christian organizations are joining many others to provide assistance and care. Now is the time for Christians to act like Christians!

I can’t help but take this personally. I live on the West Coast of Canada. Experts are constantly telling us that we are due for a very large earthquake in our future. It is hard not to think of the events far away, and replay what we would go through if such a catastrophe would visit our nation and continent. No doubt, our grief and shock would be equally as great as what we are hearing on the other side of the earth. Hence, when we hear of the grief, we need only to project what ours would be in a similar circumstance.

How are Christians to think? And how are Christians to respond? Let’s address each of these questions in order.

As Christians, our thinking must always be in accordance with Scripture. Does Scripture have something to teach us during times like these? Indeed, it has much to say. For the sake of brevity, let’s consider only one passage.

“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’” (Luke 13:1-5, ESV).

There are two important truths to be internalized. The first is that people who suffer either persecution or natural disasters are not worse sinners than those who have escaped such suffering. Almost all Christians both know this and believe it. The second truth is that sufferings of this kind remind us that the sufferings of the moment are a reminder of the need to repent. Suffering on this magnitude is a birth-pang of the sufferings that will one day envelope all the earth. Earthquakes are an early warning sign that our time is also coming. For this reason, we need to abandon all known sin and turn to the one who alone can save.

So much for how we should think. What should we do? 1 Timothy 2:1 commands Christians to make supplications, prayers and intercessions for all men. We do this, especially when we know that there are people who have needs. I call on all Christian churches to have an extended prayer time in their service, where they call on God to show mercy and compassion for the suffering. And then, regarding our giving to this needy cause. While it is valuable to give wisely, and wherever our giving maximizes relief, it is equally valuable to give to Christian organizations that are clear they are doing this in response to the compassion of Christ. Every opportunity for showing mercy should mention the one who is ultimately merciful.

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld is the national Bible teacher at Back to the Bible Canada. He has served as Senior Pastor, church planter, conference speaker and educator, and is known both nationally and internationally for his passion and excellence in expositional preaching and teaching.

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