This past weekend, Courtney and I took a trip back to Alabama. She had a 10-year class reunion and we also visited some family. We had the trip planned for months but what we didn’t plan for was for Hurricane Florence to hit while we were gone.
You’ve probably heard about it or you may have even been affected by it. The hurricane tore across the East Coast and caused some serious flooding damage, even in our hometown of Charlotte, which is over three hours from the Atlantic Ocean.
Because of this, the media and everyone else’s attention was pointed in our direction. As I introduced myself at the reunion and mentioned where we live, everyone I met instantly became concerned and asked more questions.
As the reunion wore on, I couldn’t help but notice the effect their empathy and concern had on me. I didn’t really know most of these people, but walking away from that event I would’ve described my wife’s graduating class of 2008 as caring and kind.
I now know that — unlike many people living in Carolinas — our home, our family, and our friends escaped the storm without harm. But at the reunion, we didn’t know that, and our concerns were real. Their empathy met us where we were and it even formed an impression on me that I’m still holding onto as I write this.
This experience made me think about my behavior at the event and I realized how little interest I expressed about their life. It wasn’t intentional, I’m just not naturally very good at it.
This favorable impression also made me think about how it contrasts the negative impression many people have of Christians when it comes to natural disasters due to those who blame hurricanes on God’s wrath.
As a Christian, this shouldn’t be. In Galatians 6:1-2, we’re given very specific instructions to “carry one another’s burdens” and in many other places in the Bible it talks about Jesus’ willingness to carry our burdens (Psalm 68:19, Matthew 11:28).
My personality type may not be one that’s naturally extroverted and empathetic, but kindness and thinking of others shouldn’t be confined to a personality type.
Over the years, I’ve read a lot of different books and heard plenty of sermons about being a better Christian, but I’m realizing that being a better Christian can sometimes just look like being a better human.
It’s about being the Church as much as we talk about it. It doesn’t have to be a 12-week Bible study and you don’t even have to call it fancy words like “discipleship.” You can simply love people and care about them as you would want to be cared about.
Our opinions can be argued. Our doctrine can often confuse. But our love is what can cause the kind of change that we’re all seeking to make as followers of Jesus.
That’s why I think the Church often looks its best when the world looks its worst
As we respond to darkness and destruction, we shine the light of Christ for all to see.
Sermons and Bible studies and even blog posts like this one are helpful — but what I think people most often need from Christians today is the kind of compassion and grace that Jesus has given us.
It’s not a complicated concept, but it is a difficult one to live out.
It can be as simple as a text message to a friend or as extravagant as rescuing strangers in the flooded aftermath of a hurricane — what matters most is that we don’t forget to use our hearts.