Bella Vista Church of Christ



Randall Caselman


When Tragedy Strikes


  Authentic Christianity is about relationships, community, togetherness, fellowship. Jesus tells us that, when life happens, when things don't go as we want, we are commissioned to help one another. Perhaps no place is this to be found any more than in Jesus' word of Matthew chapter twenty-five. Here, He alludes to the fact that our eternal destiny is partially gauged by how we help one another:


  "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me... Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, You did for Me. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the World.'"


  Did you notice? Thoughts, words, and prayers are not enough. Genuine Christianity is not only thinking right, but carrying through with a behavior. Sympathy is a feeling, compassion is a behavior. Jesus is asking for a behavior. James affirms this concept when he writes: "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?" (James 2.15-16)


  Similarly, John says: "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?... Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3.17-18).


  Thoughts, words, prayers by themselves are an insufficient response to a tragedy, a crisis, or need, unless we pair them with deeds done to help.


What is an authentic Christ-Like response to tragedy?...


  1) Hurting people need shelter, a safe place where their physical, material, emotional, spiritual needs are met. It was Paul who admonished: "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality" (Romans 12.12b). It was Paul who wrote: "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12.15).


  2) Hurting people need a shoulder to cry on. They need community, fellowship, togetherness. Jesus came giving us a new concept when he said: "The Kingdom of God is within you." Indeed, the Kingdom is within us! The Kingdom of God is best seen in the good works, deeds, by its citizens. No wonder Jesus is found saying: "The world will know that you are My disciple when you love one another." Listen, loving others, helping others, serving the Jesus in others, is not a secondary source of identity for disciples of Christ; Jesus said it is the primary identifying mark.


  3) When life tumbles in, victims need shepherds. We need those who will advise, lead, guide in paths of righteousness, in lush green pastures, by quiet still waters. We need those who have the wisdom to strengthen our faith. Scripture teaches that we can find meaning in suffering: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance... Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him" (James 1.2-3 & 12).


  "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith, worth greater than gold... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus is revealed" (1 Peter 1.6-7).


  Even though Paul was suffering trials in prison, he wrote to the church at Philippi saying: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Regardless of how troublesome life may become, there are always things to be thankful for, to rejoice in: God's precepts, His presence, His power at work in us, His promises, His providence, His pardon, His path of righteousness, His purpose for us, His daily provision, protection, and promise of Paradise. Amen?


  I like what the Fayetteville Fire Department has done; placed signs on each of their station houses saying: "Safe Place." The challenge is for each of us, and our churches, is to be known in our community as a place of safety when life turns ugly; that we be a shelter, a shoulder, a shepherd.


—Randall Caselman