Unity after Hurricane Harvey. Will it stick?

On opposite sides of the world, flooding has brought devastation. Houston hits close to home. Maybe not as close as our non-Texan friends think who keep calling to make sure we are safe, but still close. For many of us, friends and family stand to lose everything they have. It’s easy to see how unity is a natural response to Hurricane Harvey. 

unity in america and

 

Austin Chan

There is another deadly flood not so close to home. There have been over 1,00 deaths across India, southern Nepal and northern Bangladesh in the last 2 months due to flood waters. Some 40 million more have seen their homes, businesses or crops destroyed. (see A singular storm in Houston; a recurring nightmare in Mumbai)

Or what of Sierra Leone’s mudslides on August 14 that left over 1,000 dead, 2,000 homeless, and more who are still missing? This community was ravaged by Ebola not so long ago, and now in the midst of their grief, they are rushing to stop the disease that follows a natural disaster of this type. (see Images from Sierra Leone and UK Team Races to Stop Disease)

Then we move away from the natural disasters and look at the misunderstanding and hate we pile on one another. Our country’s history of race relations to current day. What happened at Charlottesville, the Nashville Statement, and the Transgender Ban didn’t happen overnight. The discrimination of race and sexual orientation isn’t suddenly here, it has been here all along, it’s only been spotlighted by these events.

The oppressed here at home, in Syria, in North Korea, and across the world who are crying out for help. There are people wrongfully imprisoned, those persecuted for their faith (Christian, Muslim, and other faiths alike), those living under threat of war and those displaced because of war. We’re struggling with how to respond in the face of our own pain and others. Do we take a knee during the national anthem because we expect better from our country or do we stand in honor of our veterans? Do we go to the protest so those feeling oppressed know they are loved or do we stay home to not play into the hatred of others? I’m struggling with these questions too.

We’re struggling with how to respond in the face of our own pain and others. Do we take a knee during the national anthem because we expect better from our country or do we stand in honor of our veterans? Do we go to the protest so those feeling oppressed know they are loved or do we stay home to not play into the hatred of others? I’m struggling with these questions too.

I’m struggling with these questions too.

Add in our own personal struggles of health and financial concerns, taking care of loved ones, and fighting for their care and our own, it’s miraculous we are able to walk out our front doors some days.

Right now, our hearts and focus are in Houston. The random guy in the bass boat pulling out survivors (regardless of race, gender, or orientation) from the flood waters is celebrated because it is a cry for the unity we all want. There is something about tragedy and suffering that unifies us all.

Will Unity Stick

But when the waters of Houston recede will our cultural climate have changed?

Is this a doomsday message?

By now you are probably thinking so, but it’s not. And here is why.

YOU.

You are the good in this world.

I don’t know if you believe that or are even living into it. But as Christ followers, it is your calling and your duty.

So here are my questions to you.

Are you ready to know how to make a difference?

Are you ready to be the good in the world?

Romans 12:9-21 says

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I’m going to share with you three ways we, as followers of Christ, are called to spread God’s love.

3 Ways to Spread God’s Love and Promote Unity

3 Ways to Spread God's Love and Promote Unity Click To Tweet

#1 Be present. Enter into both joy and suffering with others.

You don’t know what to do when your friend’s child dies?

Unsure of what to say when someone has been diagnosed with cancer?

Pangs of jealousy sprout up at the success of your neighbor?

Let all of that go and learn to shut up and sit down.

What do I mean by that? Learn to sit with them in their pain. Enter into the suffering with them. Mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. They aren’t looking for the next greatest guru in your presence. They simply need and want you present.

There is an excellent book on this, written by a woman dying of cancer and her friend who made the choice to be present in her friend’s most difficult journey. Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together.

When my daughter was first diagnosed with cancer at the age of 6 months I had so many well-intentioned people claim healing over her, lay on hands and advice, and say words that stung my breaking heart.

Do you want to know what I needed more than anything?

I needed someone to hold my hand, sit with me, and cry. That’s it. It wasn’t something Suzie or Joe down the street could fix, they didn’t need to try. I needed them to simply show up.

unity in sitting together

Ben White

Now, I work as a home health aide and I see the same thing happen in the lives of those I help. They don’t need the latest essential oil or the latest research, they’re looking and they’re talking to experts. They are better versed on the subject than you or I. What they need is a friend. They need to be seen and heard. They need the space to grieve what is lost and someone to be present.

It is hard to show up for those who are suffering. Many times it breaks you. But it’s not about you or me.  It’s about showing up in those places and loving those who need it the most. It’s about removing yourself from the equation and loving unconditionally.

#2 Get up and serve.

The words found in Romans 12:9-21 are words of action. They are not calling us to in-action in the name of unity and peace. These words are calling us to act.

Action will look different for each of us because the Holy Spirit moves each one of us differently to engage in the body of Christ. We are each essential to the overall work and are uniquely called to do good differently.

There is too much for one person to do. But the good news is you as an individual are not called to do it all. We are called in community to work together.

Each of us plays our unique part, whether it’s

  • driving a boat to Houston,
  • raising funds for India,
  • taking medical supplies to Mexico,
  • opening your home to host those displaced,
  • providing shelter and clothing for the homeless,
  • standing for and with the oppressed,
  • creating jobs for those in need,
  • holding a hand in the hospital waiting room or at a graveside….

Whatever it is, you have been called. Get up and do it!

In Exodus 3:1-5 God calls Moses out from his comfort zone. Moses saw the oppression of his people. His position in Pharaoh’s house gave him the privilege to run from it. He finds rest, comfort, and a new family and appears to have forgotten those in need. He was far enough away from the oppression that he had grown comfortable in his new life. And then God came in and said, “Nope, that’s not happening Moses.” God sent him back into the thick of it, right to the feet of Pharaoh.

God is sending us into the thick of it too.

We don’t get to stay put in our comfort zone while the world around us is drowning.

#3 Do not grow weary.

Here’s where I get really honest.

There are days it is difficult for me to walk out the front door. I feel overwhelmed and defeated. My anxiety gets the best of me and then I remember I am not alone.

You are not alone.

We are in this together.

Galations 6:9 says

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time

we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

I don’t know if you believe that or are even living into it, but as Christ followers, it is our calling and our duty to stand together, to mourn together, to rejoice together, to seek peace together, to stand for the broken and the oppressed together, to work towards unity always.

We are the change that we have been waiting for.

We are the hands and feet who are called to action.

What will you do today to be the good in the world?

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