What is an average Christian to do? How do we respond when a "prominent Christian" makes outrageous statements like some made about the earthquake in Haiti? While there are some Christians who may believe the earthquake was an act of punishment by God, I doubt it is even a strong minority. Unfortunately, all Christians tend to get painted by this wide brush and the color is repugnant.
So how can followers of Jesus offer another view, another example of response to this tragic event? Already many churches are responding with an outpouring of concern embodied in financial generosity and the gathering of needed supplies. On our behalf, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has already shipped much needed health kits. Around the country congregations are assembling new kits to replenish the supply. They are partnering with schools and community organizations to collect even more. In so doing they offer another tangible way for individuals to offer assistance. And they offer a counter to the ugly remarks of persons claiming to speak for God.Each individual who gives of their time and resources witnesses to the love and compassion of our Creator.
Our actions speak loudly, but so can our words. When we find opportunities to explain how our actions connect to our faith in Jesus Christ, we provide a powerful alternative view of Christians. It is often this second part of acting we neglect, particularly in the mainline church. Our motivation matters. We don't gather health kits because we are good people. We act in this way because it is the will of our Savior. This is how followers of Jesus follow the example of Jesus. It is not that we are better than others, or earn anything from our actions. To act with compassion and mercy is simply the way of following Jesus. Sharing our motivations is a powerful witness.
Ultimately, each individual follower of Jesus repaints the public image of Christians. You and me together make the reality of the Gospel apparent and true in our living and our sharing. So get out the paint remover, scrub away the negative and let the colors those committed to serving Jesus shine through.