By all accounts, Hurricane Harvey will go down as one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the United States, with many people calling it a 500 or even 1000-year flood.
At the time of this writing, Harvey has dumped nearly 33 trillion gallons of water on the gulf coast area, forcing the National Weather Service to add new colors to its rainfall map, and even pushing the earth’s crust down by two centimeters.
Suffice it to say, the damage has been catastrophic.
I’m sure I’m not the only one, but every morning for the last couple of weeks, my Facebook feed has been inundated with images of homes that were underwater, people traveling down streets in boats, and even this one picture of a guy evacuating a four-year-old boy with a stand-up paddle-board.
However, in the midst of all this tragedy, one of the brightest spots has been seeing all the relief efforts that have been pouring into the area from all over the country (and the world), especially amongst Christians.
And perhaps that’s the silver lining in this whole event.
As someone else has pointed out very well (https://angeliagriffin.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/the-good-thing-harvey-washed-away/), Hurricane Harvey has the ability to unite Americans in the midst of an overwhelmingly divisive year. The events of Charlottesville and the debate over the Civil War monuments have galvanized this country in more ways than one, creating new divisions and re-igniting old arguments.
But Hurricane Harvey, for all of its devastation, has brought us all back to center.
It has reminded us that the most important thing in this world is not left vs. right, or black vs. white, or us vs. them, but us helping us. The most important thing a community can do is reach out to one another – to extend a helping hand in times of distress and to begin serving others before it is even asked (Gal. 5:13; Matt. 23:11)
That is the essence of love and benevolence, and we have seen it in action in the last couple weeks more than we have seen it in the last year combined.
However, if this world continues to stand, then the flood waters will eventually recede and Houston will begin the rebuilding process.
What will we do then?
Will the love and compassion for others’ well-being recede with the floodwaters? Or can we redirect it to a cause that is eternal?
What if, instead of going back to our “normal lives” and resuming business as usual, we focused our efforts on reaching other people with the Gospel as aggressively as we reached them with our boats? What if we attacked the problem of sin in this country as intensely as we attacked the problem of Hurricane Harvey?
In short, what if we saw each other spiritually the way Harvey made us see each other physically?
The truth is, people are dying spiritually every day, and people aren’t just losing their homes this time, millions are losing their souls. It’s high time we recognize the great spiritual need before us.
After Jesus sat with the woman at the well in John 4, His apostles marveled that he had been speaking with her. Their bias against the social and gender classes of the day demanded that He spend as little time as possible with someone like her.
And yet, after she was gone, something amazing happened. The people of Sychar flocked to Jesus, all wanting to see this Prophet that had told the woman everything about her life.
It was at this point that Jesus turned to His Apostles and told them, “Look up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white for harvest” (John 4:35).
The Apostles were so caught up in their version of the world that they failed to recognize the enormous opportunity that was – literally – walking towards them. Had they opened their eyes, they would have seen a whole town of Samaritans that needed the Gospel.
The Apostles are not unlike us. Hurricane Harvey opened our eyes to the physical needs of our fellow citizens, but we need to open our eyes to their spiritual needs as well. The love and compassion that is shown during an event like Harvey can’t (and shouldn’t) go away just because the water has. The world still needs benevolence, it still needs community, and it still needs the Gospel.
Can you imagine being so passionate about teaching someone the Gospel that you would get into a boat and paddle through a storm to share it with someone? It’s a terrifying thought.
But also, a beautiful one.