There is a certain sense of outrage and indignation that arises (hopefully) among the world’s populations in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis’s devastating assault on the country of Myanmar (formerly Burma). An incredibly impoverished country even prior to the storm, the government has been classified as “almost as bad as North Korea”. Myanmar’s leaders are certainly in rare form in the last week or so. In refusing help for survivors with their suffocating grip on their country’s aid pipelines, they’re almost certainly guaranteeing that the Red Cross’ estimate (of over 100,000 people dead from the storm) is going to tragically fall short of the death toll that will follow from disease and starvation due to the government’s failure to open up avenues of help for its people. And, to top it off, not only is aid restricted (if not quite non-existent), but the Myanmar army is apparently seizing up to 80% of the emergency provisions being sent into the country to feed its own forces.
Such proceedings raise the question, of course, of what to do about it. We can hope that aid organizations continue in their efforts (in spite of the resistance of the Myanmar government). And we might even hope that our country will encourage nations that have some political leverage there, like China, might apply some pressure, too.
But two million people in Myanmar need more than hope. First, they need us to pray… so let’s pray that God will indeed open doors and avenues that will allow help to come. Let’s pray that He would thwart the evil plans of evil men and overcome them with good, connecting the desperate needs of the people there with expressions of His great mercy and grace as He introduces them to not only physical bread and clean drinking water, but also spiritual bread and living water (John 4:14, 6:35).
Let us also share in practical ways out of our riches for we are truly a “rich” people. Oh, I know that everyone’s “feeling the pinch” as gas prices sky rocket into heights hitherto unknown. Yes, there is a “pinch” as the prices of everything are driven up and up. Yes, I know that everyone has it tough these days.
But let us ALL realize that very few of us indeed have, in our particular corner of the world, “felt the pinch” of starvation pangs, as the body begins the process of digesting its own tissues in desperate efforts to sustain itself. Very few of us here have “felt the pinch” of diphtheria or other similar diseases because there is no distinction between raw sewage and drinking water. And very few of us have “felt the pinch” of hurricane force winds whipping sand and grit against our skin, tearing it from our flesh.
Let us NOT be like “Bob” from Texas who posted his comment on a “Times Online” article regarding the problems in Myanmar. “I say we send the aid for BURMA, to CHINA,” he said. “At least they want it. A country deserves the government it has.” Bob clearly has no concept of grace. After all, if you and I really got what WE deserve, we’d have no hope for heaven.
Find out what your church is doing or can do through its affiliations and partnerships to help others in Myanmar and throughout the world. Learn the joy of giving, sharing from your heart even if it means cutting back on some personal pleasures. After all we ARE talking about men and women, boys and girls who have been created in God’s image. You can be a messenger of grace if you’ll simply let God use you to bless others. As you learn to share in love like Jesus, you will find an incredible freedom that comes from not being enslaved to your possessions or personal comforts. Giving in Jesus’ name is a celebration of our freedom in Christ! If you’ve placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior then learn to celebrate this incredible freedom!
And don’t forget to ask God to permit you the opportunity to serve Him by serving others. Look for ways that you can personally become involved in meeting needs. Perhaps you’ll prepare a meal for someone who is sick. Or maybe you’ll repair a step for a senior citizen who hasn’t been able to get to it because of arthritis. Or maybe you’ll join in a food pantry ministry at your church. And maybe you’ll even somehow, someday be on a plane yourself, ready to help someone whose village has been wiped out.
Perhaps you remember Jesus teaching about loving others in Luke 10:20-37. A man went on a journey and was “mugged” by a gang of robbers. They savagely beat him, took everything he had (even his clothing), and then left him for dead along the road. Then the equivalent of a church leader came by. Surely he was the kind of man, being in a “helping profession”, who would lend a hand. But he didn’t. He walked by him as far away as he could along the road.
Then another man came by. This one was a “do gooder” who would surely have less pride issues than the first. Would compassion be stirred in his heart? No. He didn’t stop either. He avoided him and all his problems, too. I guess these guys just didn’t want to get involved. Suffering is an ugly thing. But then again, so is apathy and complacency.
A third man came. Uh, oh. He wasn’t even the same nationality as the wounded and robbed man. He was one of “those” people… the kind that folks just tolerated, looked down on, and snickered at. If this poor victim was left to die by the first two men, he was really in trouble with this last guy. But wait! He stopped. He came to him. He put medicine on his hurts and wrapped his wounds with bandages! And then he carefully transported him to an inn where he could rest and recover – paying for it out of his own pocket!
Oh, if only we’d actively live out the kind of compassion that pours from this “Good Samaritan!” Maybe we’d begin to see more overt answers to our prayers! Maybe we’d begin to experience the love, power, and wisdom of God at work in our lives in ways we’ve never even imagined! Let the tenderness of His heart fill yours with His grace… the grace that intervenes in our headlong race towards self-destruction while prompting us to stand against evil as we lift up the weary hearts of the downtrodden.
“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right…. What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:8,14-17 NIV).