Analyzing current events from a theological perspective can be tricky work. When people suffer loss, outlining the lessons they should learn from that loss can come across as insensitive. In truth our first response to the suffering of fellow human beings should be one of compassion and mercy.
The recent fires in surrounding areas of the southeastern United States is an example of what I’m referring to. In Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area as well as North Alabama and surrounding communities, people have suffered great loss and are hurting. As a church we should pray for their comfort and for their restoration. We should be looking for ways to be a part of that comfort and where possible a part of their restoration, sharing our resources for the good of others. For families who have lost loved ones we should be praying and seeking ways to demonstrate God’s love and mercy to them.
In the summer of 2000 Hope and I found ourselves in the middle of a drought in Central Florida, and wildfires ravaged our neighborhood even plowing through our yard, potentially consuming our home. So, earlier this week as I read in the newspaper about the devastating destruction of wildfire in East Tennessee, I relived those memories. Though we did not lose any of our personal property, I still carry with me a back injury sustained by a fall from a structure while fighting the fires.
During this time of suffering and destruction I saw God’s hand in the many expressions of mercy and compassion offered from neighbors and friends. We also learned many valuable lessons. Possessions are fleeting and temporary. Family, friends, and faith in God are far more important. How we respond to loss and suffering (our own loss as well as the loss of others) says much about what we really value.
I pray we will see these moments as occasions to live out our Christian beliefs. May our love be and compassion be a light showing the love of Christ and the hope of the gospel.