I’ve been thinking about this post all day and trying to figure out how to word it.
This past weekend Hurricane Harvey hit south eastern Texas, and as a result, the city of Houston has been inundated with flood waters. I’ve seen lots of pictures and videos of people being rescued, people risking their lives to help complete strangers, and a community coming together with a sense of unity.
Last night before bed I was scrolling through Twitter when I came across a post about Joel Olsteen’s response to the Houston Flooding. His twitter response was “Victoria & I are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family.” Now I don’t listen to Joel Olsteen. I’ve never heard a sermon. To be honest, he gives me the heebie jeebies, and when I see his saccharine smile plastered on the front of a book, I’m not enticed to pick it up. But I know that there are a lot of people that do listen to him. I know there are people that trust him. So here goes.
While I’m not a fan of the man, I thought the sentiment of his comment was kind and I wondered why there was such outrage so I clicked on his tweet and was amazed at the number of replies there were- and how many of them were negative. And since I know practically nothing about him or his ministry, I was surprised to learn that he has a 16,000 seat church in the heart of Houston. 16,000 seats!! That’s massive. And then I understood the problem… there’s a church with at least a 16,000 person capacity at the very center of one of the greatest natural disasters in our country in recent memory, and that church is sitting empty.
Instead of mobilizing their congregation and opening their doors as soon as possible, they set up a link where you could donate money through their church to help the people of Houston. (Sometime today, the church finally opened it’s doors, but it seemed to be more of a response to the backlash than a proactive response to the storm.)
That’s not right.
As I continued reading the responses I saw so many people voicing their disgust of Christians and Christianity. They made comments like, ‘this is why I walked away from my faith.’ Let’s get honest here, folks… In the bible Paul tells us that we are ‘living letters’ to be read by men, so when people were reading the living letter that is that ‘christian’ and that ‘ministry,’ they only saw greed and self interest- they saw an empty 16,000 person church and a $10 million residence. Outsiders, non christians were turned away from God because in their time of need, their local ‘church’ was not a haven of compassion or a physical shelter from a very real threat. We as Christians and our communities as churches HAVE TO BE IN THE TRENCHES. We cannot lead from behind. We have to follow Christ’s very vivid examples of meeting the physical and spiritual needs of our community, and even more so in times of crisis. Is that uncomfortable? Yes! Is it expensive? Yes! Is it a risk? Yes! And if we aren’t doing that, then maybe we need to be rereading our bibles and revisiting our doctrine.
I’m not just speaking about our churches as communities, but us as individuals and families as well. I’m speaking to myself (and my own family) too because we are very guilty of this. It is hard to see past our own lives, our own difficulties, and our own tragedies to notice the people near us in need. We need to do better. We need to bleed compassion and generosity. We need to give without regret and we need to show that God’s love isn’t just words, but it is ultimately action. So let’s do better.
We are living letters- let those letters reflect Christ!