“The Lord commands us to do ‘good unto all men,’ universally, a great part of whom, estimated according to their own merits, are very undeserving; but here the Scripture assists us with an excellent rule, when it inculcates, that we must not regard the intrinsic merit of men, but must consider the image of God in them, to which we owe all possible honor and love; but that this image is most carefully to be observed in them ‘who are of the household of faith,’ inasmuch as it is renewed and restored by the Spirit of Christ.
“Whoever, therefore, is presented to you that needs your kind offices, you have no reason to refuse him your assistance. Say he is a stranger; yet the Lord has impressed on him a character which ought to be familiar to you; for which reason he forbids you to despise your own flesh. Say that he is contemptible and worthless; but the Lord shows him to be one whom he has deigned to grace with his own image. Say that you are obliged to him for no services; but God has made him, as it were, His substitute, to whom you acknowledge yourself to be under obligations for numerous and important benefits. Say that he is unworthy of your making the smallest exertion on his account; but the image of God, by which he is recommended to you, deserves your surrender of yourself and all that you possess.
“If he not only deserved no favor, but, on the contrary, has provoked you with injuries and insults—even this is no just reason why you should cease to embrace him with your affection, and to perform to him the offices of love. He has deserved, you will say, very different treatment from me. But what has the Lord deserved, who, when He commands you to forgive all men their offences against you, certainly intends that they should be charged to Himself?”
~ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
Posted by Justin Lonas
A friend of mine blogged this morning about the real tragedy of Haiti, which experienced a massive earthquake yesterday evening. She pointed out that when people are tempted to doubt God’s goodness in the face of such horrific natural disasters, we should remember that 1) all such suffering is ultimately a consequence of human sin, and 2) we should be as quick to doubt our own goodness for allowing the poverty which magnifies the disaster (through food shortages, unstable construction, inadequate communication of danger, etc.) to go unchecked. She asked how we can process something like this theologically and practically. The following was my answer to that question:
It’s always tough to process natural disasters–especially when they’re coupled with unnatural disasters like the pillage of Haiti which has been going on since the Spanish first landed there in the 1500s and the French turned it into a massive sugar plantation in the 1700s. For me, this particular disaster creates a struggle on a personal, emotional level too–I’ve been to Haiti; I have Haitian friends; I love Haiti.
At the theological level, I am praying that the Hatian church (particularly my friends) can rise to the occasion and be the love of God to their countrymen through this crisis. I am praying that the people of Haiti, as everything crumbles around them, will place their trust in the unshakable God. I am praying that the thousands of Americans (believers and unbelievers) who have for decades given graciously to the people of Haiti from the resources entrusted to them will continue to do so with renewed passion, and begin to invest in the lives of those people with Christlike care for the whole person rather than simply pouring money into the black hole of corruption that foreign aid to Haiti has become.
At a practical level, the quake has renewed my commitment to the work the Lord has brought in partnership with Haiti through child sponsorship and our church’s long-term commitment to one small community in Nord-Est Department. We have a natural avenue of ministry there, and though the community was not destroyed by the quake, and we want to help the church there be a help to areas harder hit. I’m sure that we’ll redouble our efforts to bring hope to that community through the preaching of the Gospel, the building of schools and medical centers, providing clean water, training in business & agriculture, and microfinance.
In short, processing theologically cannot be separated from processing practically. God has placed each of us in a sphere of influence for a reason, and we cannot believe one thing and do another–we use what He’s given where He’s placed us for His greatest glory (i.e. – people finding His salvation and the love, mercy, & justice of His character). A disaster should, if anything, strengthen our faith in God by shaking us out of the belief that we control things and redirecting our focus to obedience.
To find out more about how to partner with AMG International (our parent organization) to provide assistance to their partners in Haiti, click HERE.