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Monday, February 1, 2010

Brotherly Love



I’ve known that I needed to post on the topic of Brotherly Love since last year. I kept putting off writing the post. But today I found myself compelled to write, though unable to find all the words to convey what is roiling around inside me as I watch the Hope for Haiti telethon in tears.
Earthquakes have nearly shaken the nation apart, leaving in their wake inconceivable devastation. The stories filtering out of Haiti are both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. According to recent estimates, more than 600,000 people are homeless in Port-Au-Prince. More than a quarter of the pre-earthquake population. The dead are believed to number upwards of 200,000.
The numbers are so big that I can’t wrap my mind around them. In my limited experience, I can’t relate to such enormous scale. It’s overwhelming, and I’m not even there. The larger impact comes home to me more clearly through individual stories. See if this doesn’t move you to want to hug your children more tightly to you than you ever have before.



A lot of people are asking why God would allow this to happen. I wish I could see into His mind and understand. I don’t know why this tragedy would strike a nation that was already struggling. Some are taking it as proof positive that there is no God.
My reaction is the opposite. Tonight I watched as famous Hollywood talent, people whom I had little respect for, were using their talents and celebrity to raise money for the injured and impoverished nation. And I realized that this is love in its purest, simplest form. To reach out when someone is in need.
I was ashamed of myself for how little I have done. I saw the pictures and was horrified. I offered up a prayer as I went about my daily routine. I talked about the possibility of going over and helping with the rebuilding—someday. But the sight of such suffering didn’t fundamentally change me or even move me to action. Yet, these actors and musicians, that I long ago wrote-off as shallow, self-centered, egotistical, pick your adjective. They were doing something.
And in that moment I realized that I was the Pharisee and that these ‘publicans’ were a lot closer to God than I. They were reaching out to the hurt and the injured and the afflicted. Not only are the people of Haiti my brothers, and it’s my duty to reach out and try to help. But also the people putting on the telethon. Those people whom I had judged, they are my brothers too.
I wish I could see with such clarity all the time. It’s sad that it takes a tragedy on such a vast scale to bring us together and show us that under all the political rancor and cultural differences, we are brothers.
My prayer today is that we will hide this lesson in our heart. Disagreements will arise again. But when divisive rhetoric raises it’s head, as it inevitably will, I hope that we will at least remember that those we disagree with are people. Not simply candidates, not simply opponents. But people with dreams, and families, hopes and hearts, just like ours. We share the common bond of humanity and that connection is more precious than the differences that strive to divide us.
No I don’t have all the answers, but maybe this event will start helping us to ask the right questions.
Has tragedy ever taught you a spiritual lesson?

If you'd like to contribute to Haiti here are some safe links.

Or text "HAITI" to 90999 to make an automatic 10$ donation, the charge will show up on your phone bill

17 comments:

  1. Excuse me if I rant a moment, but this subject was on my mind for a few days, so I have a lot to say. I might continue it on my personal blog.

    I know the majority of Christians look at a situation like this and assume it must be "God's Will." I wasn't raised that way, and I'm thankful. I look at a situation like this and assume it is the result of evil and an active enemy in the world. That God only wants to love and protect and heal us through this situation.

    I realize this sort of theology is complicated, and I know it requires some sort of balance, but I will say that due to the way I was raised, tragedy has ALWAYS pulled me closer to God, never farther away. I have never blamed him for anything bad in my life. I have only turned to him to solve it and thanked him for the good.

    And yes, we need to be his hands of healing to these people.

    I also believe that our perceptions have a lot to do with how we understand tragedy. Will we be thankful for the miracle of a little girl and uncle saved from an earthquake, or bitter over the rest of the family lost? It's all up to us.

    Great post Lisa. Amazing idea to link this subject to Haiti. God Bless.

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  2. Good morning, Lisa. Wow. This had me in tears. Beautiful.

    You're so right. Often we fail to see the human, vulnerable person behind those with whom we disagree. That's been one of my goals, to try and see each person clearer, to try and not be judgemental.

    Re Haiti...oh, it breaks my heart to where I can't even bear to see or read the news anymore. But I agree with Dina. I don't think this is God's will. I think He's there, though, and I think His heart is broken. He wants to help all those people through it, and how great it would be if His message shines through loud and clear. I've heard so many stories of faith, and I pray those stories will reach those who are blaming God for this tragedy.

    Thanks for this, Lisa.

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  3. I don't think we'll ever understand some of the tragedies that have occurred in our world. At least, not this side of eternity. But I'm with you Dina. I do NOT believe that this was some sort of divine punishment. That theology is very dangerous because it leads us down the path to some very yucky stuff. If God punishes nations with tragedy, then why not people and from there we're just a step away from dishing out the punishment ourselves, a la Salem Witch trials. We can argue over the old testament. And such a huge issue is never cut and dried, but I think as people we need to be very careful not to judge but simply to act in love.

    Thanks, Dina for your thoughtful comments.

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  4. Suzie, I'm with you. I was so torn up with the coverage that I didn't even want to watch the fundraiser, but my husband did. Now I'm glad I did. I did cry through much of it, but I also realized some things, even some not very flattering things about myself.

    What matters now is not so much what caused the tragedy as how we respond to it.

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  5. In the true spirit of a ranting author, I did write a personal blog about tragedy and continue those thought. It is up on my "Awesome Inspirationals" blog with a link in the right side bar.

    http://awesomeinspirationals.blogspot.com/

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  6. Good Morning Lisa, Dina, Suzie and all,
    My first thought to your post Lisa was I can't begin to wrap my mind around tragedy and why it occurs. I admittedly have blamed God for tragedies in my life. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. I think about JOB and how God allowed all those disasters to fall on him so why should I be any different?

    Yet in some part of my relationship with Jesus I know there's more to it.

    So I went internet surfing which can be a dangerous a thing. I found a comment from The Road We Travel: Online Journal of Pastor Rick Thompson titled "Why Does God Allow Tragedy? Here's the link:
    http://roadwetravel.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-does-god-allow-tragedy.html

    He has 3 main points, the first being:
    1. "First of all, we should all remember that Christianity teaches that we are all limited in our understanding and that there is no way that any one of us can have a clear picture of reality on this side of eternity. What we see in this life as human tragedy has to be measured against the full scope of eternity."

    Ultimately none of us have the answers, only God does and I do believe that God is in control.

    Lisa, I wish you wouldn't make me think so hard in the morning. That's what I get for checking in before I get home from work. :)

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  7. Lisa,
    A lovely and thought provoking post. Not only should we see tragedy when it occurs, we should see more deeply into ourselves and examine our hearts.

    Before your post I believed there was little we, as lay persons, could do besides praying and providing money to aid agencies until the nation is stabilized. But you are right. We can do one more thing--we can check our own attitudes.

    And while we are praying for Haiti, I'd like to also remind our readers that a humanitarian crisis is at play in the Sudan. Samaritan's Purse Canada is based in our city and we know workers there. Right now they are continuing their work in Sudan and other parts of the world in addition to Haiti.

    I have to confess when the appeal for Sudan came in the mail from World Vision and Samaritan's Purse I ignored it, already having given to Haiti. But today I will remember Sudan in my prayers and will donate to support agencies extending the hand of Jesus to those suffering in Sudan as well.

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  8. You're right Wends, there are so many tragedies around the world. Our individual contributions seem miniscule in the face of the need.

    I just want to see some good come of all this disaster. Perhaps a restructuring of government in Haiti so that the corruption is eliminated. Perhaps an easing of the red tape so that orphans can be adopted. On a much smaller scale perhaps a change in the way I view my 'political' opponents.

    To paraphrase Dina we can choose our response to such events. To make the changes that mean personal growth. Or to become a victim of circumstances rather than an overcomer.

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  9. "And in that moment I realized that I was the Pharisee and that these ‘publicans’ were a lot closer to God than I." Lisa, that sentence came straight from the Holy Spirit, IMHO. We so love to pick apart the world around us. And when that gets boring we start in on each other. *sigh*
    Our community of 2500 experienced a terrible tragedy recently. A pastor's family was in a car accident and their 9-year-old son was killed. People in town who've been branded as unregenerate pagans and heathen sinners stepped up immediately with compassion, with prayers, with tangible offers of help.
    I think the ones we've labeled "lost" are often the first ones to act with love and compassion, because they live in that painful, broken mess of the world system everyday, without any means of escape or relief. While we resort to the safety of our philosophical sofas of "why" and "how."
    Ouch.

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  10. Thank you for the safe links.
    andrea

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  11. What bothers me most is how unaffected I can be. I can't possibly grasp the facts of this crisis anymore than I can the Sudan or anything else beyond my small world where people die one or two at a time.

    I saw very little of the Haiti coverage, but made myself sit down and watch at one point. I felt like if I went there and saw the tragedy first hand maybe, just maybe it would break my heart enough to change me. Because it still seems unreal.

    It reminds me of a discussion we had awhile back about God Glasses - Maybe I can at least be directed to see someone in my sphere of influence, open up my heart and feel their pain, and offer the brotherly love that Jesus showed us. All my efforts are worthless if I can't express that love from Him to someone who needs it.

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  12. Lisa, what a powerful post. It hit me hard. (and thank you for sharing some safe links.)

    I had the same thought as Niki, about non-Christians I've known who jump right in during times of need, who give of themselves and their resources, who love. And then I've known Christians who sit by and judge. I'm not painting with a wide brush, please don't misunderstand. I'm just always jarred out of my safe little shell when I realize how generous people are when they're not doing it for any reason, not even for the Lord. and there are so many times when my Christianity is just plain old feeble.

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  13. Lisa, thank you for linking our LOVE WEEK to the headline news.

    Blessings,
    Patti

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  14. Thank you ladies for stopping by. You are all so eloquent!

    I think the challenge for me sometimes is to offer love, not to the one who needs it, but to the one who doesn't. The stars of Hollywood haven't the slightest notion that I exist. They won't benefit from my new self-awareness, but I will. Love has a healing effect on both the receiver and the giver.

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  15. Excellent post, Lisa. Love the idea of the video and the link.

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  16. Yay! for Winnie. That's a great clip.

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  17. Doesn't it make you want to cheer, Mary! I was so glad that her uncle was there and that he seemed so happy to hold her. At least they have one another.

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