If the gospel is true, if we are to view history with eternal rather than temporal eyes, it must also be true that the saving grace of Jesus Christ is the most desperate need of every person in the world.
But that does not mean the Christian witness is best served by looking to pounce on people in the hour their desperation is most keenly felt.
What good is it to teach a man metaphysics when his house has just collapsed?
Who does it really serve to hand out Church literature or preach Christian axioms on the day a mother has lost her children?
Theology and sermons are not what is most needed on the day of the cataclysm.
It’s on those days, when the world is at its most brutal, that people need the serving hands of Christ and the embracing arms of Christians, not a tract or a rebuke or even an invitation.
As believers, we should have no doubt that Jesus does some of his best work when the night is darkest. Out of poverty and crisis, the Spirit sows seeds of redemption. It is no surprise that some of the greatest spiritual revival happens in the places of greatest material need, and some of our most powerful testimonies spring from the nethermost valley.
But if we are truly to be like Jesus, we must care for people, not just their souls.
In fact, caring for people – their bodies, their well-being, their physical and emotional needs – is caring for their souls.
On the heels of the mammoth earthquake in the Himalayas, killing, as of 10:00 Sunday night, at least 3,200 image-bearers of God across Nepal, India, and Tibet, Christian humanitarians would do well to remember the humanitarian portion of their Christianity.
We are not meant to be soul vultures.
We do not wait for disaster to strike so that we can swoop in like Christian supermen, saying, “Here we have a catastrophe! Let us go and bring the gospel!” If we begin to care for people only after they have suffered great loss, do we really care at all?
Soul vultures see earthquakes and floods, tsunamis and famine as an opportunity to bring the gospel. While this may seem noble, it may serve both victims and the Church better to see such calamities as an opportunity not to bring the gospel but to live the gospel.
Absolutely, Christians should be the first to be send aid and support and presence to those suffering in Kathmandu. All these in addition to our prayers. But we are not to be grateful for this destruction, the macroseism that brought down other religions’ temples – and with them many houses. We are to be sad with the Nepalese, and then to help them. That is our best witness.
It is well to pray that the gospel light shines brighter now in Nepal, that stories of grace and peace come out of ruins, and that Jesus’ name is ultimately magnified. It is good to pray that the Spirit moves in sweeping revival.
But not because we got them when they’re down. Not because we took advantage of their upheaval.
We must be sensitive, wise, discerning, loving, and compassionate, before we are opportunistic. Disciple-making is not first an outward strategy; it is a condition of the heart.
It will be a blessing if, in all this trembling tumult, a Bible is given or an injured child hears the name of Jesus. But in the moment of the temblor, and while the aftershocks still boil, it will be as wonderful if these people in need see Christians being salt and light, serving, helping, risking; not just waiting for the chance to charge in.
The Spirit of God did not come as a vulture, but as a dove. So should we.