It is so easy -- too easy -- to become complacent in our daily lives when there is little challenge or discomfort. Within the confines of our "comfort-bubble," we can smugly peer down upon those struggling with things that we are not struggling with. Even the feeling of thankfulness for one's blessings can contort into a feeling of pride that we are more fortunate than someone else.
But in dire times such as these, when disasters or tragedies strip away all pretense, I am reminded of how we are all truly the same by nature.
Every single one of us is a broken human being made in the image of a perfect Creator. Regardless of race, biological sex, socioeconomic status, gender or preference, religious tradition, level of ability, or level of intelligence -- God created us truly equal (Genesis1:26-27). But of course, we know that our core identities have each been equally marred by sin (Romans 3:23).
The inequality that we see today is a result of this deep-rooted sin, all of it created by human beings over-against other human beings. This indeed is a true tragedy of our species, and was never intended by God. He made us in His image, which gives each of our lives intrinsic value. To fail to recognize the equal value of every human life is to fail to recognize the power and love of God.
Inequality fueled by the power of sin has erased entire generations from our planet (the Holocaust), has enslaved millions of people under oppression for hundreds of years (people of color in the U.S.), and continues to rear its ugly head by way of systematically favoring one people group over another (rich vs. poor, white vs. black, men vs. women, etc.). Can a force with such a long history and such an impenetrable momentum ever be eradicated?
Inequality in its current deep-rooted state may never be solved prior to the return of Christ. However, inequality has a tendency to fade away into the background during times of mass-population suffering, such as we have witnessed recently in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and India. When it comes to massive forces of nature like hurricanes or earthquakes, who you or others say you are no longer matters; the disaster will hit everyone in its path with zero regard for worldly labels. Rich or poor, black or white, male or female -- everyone is affected by the disaster equally.
Suffering like this has a way of "leveling the playing field." There is no time to look down upon someone else when it is your own home being destroyed. There is no ground for comparison when your own family and the Middle-Eastern family from down the street are both receiving the same charity in an emergency shelter. There is no room for name-calling when every person carries "disaster survivor" as their label instead.
It says in Romans 5:3-5 that, "we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Most sermons that I have heard on this passage focus almost entirely on verses 3 and 4. But, verse 5 is so important! God's love has indeed been poured into our hearts, through the Spirit that lives in us and works through us. What does this Spirit-produced love look like in practical application, you might ask?
During our recent trip to Houston, TX to gather stories from families affected by Hurricane Harvey who IDES has had the chance to serve, I witnessed something truly beautiful. People from all backgrounds and all walks of life were reaching out and helping one another. There was no discrimination in who was worthy of assistance. It was like the entire city had become a "neighborhood" in its most unifying definition. Neighbors helping neighbors. Love, reconciliation, and hope were spread in the name of Jesus, and the good work of recovery continues. The Spirit was and is moving in beautiful ways.
I cannot help but ask this question: What would the world be like if we all treated each other with equal value the same way that we do during disasters or tragedies? Perhaps it would look just a little bit more like the Kingdom as God intended.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES