There was going to be a great famine throughout all the world.... Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabus and Saul (Acts 11:28-30).
The pictures of the massive earthquake and deadly tsunami that struck Japan last week kept us glued to the computer and TV screens , as we tried to imagine the horror and wrap our minds around the devastation. Our natural response was to want to help in any way we can--and well we should, as we nearly always do in the wake of some newsworthy crisis or disaster.
Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, and called sinners to repentance while He walked this earth; He has commissioned us--His followers, the Church--to continue that outreach until He returns to set things right at last. And so we must. I applaud all who have responded to the tragedy in Japan, in Haiti, in Australia, in New Orleans, and anywhere human need has torn at our heartstrings over the last few years. But we dare not forget that in addition to bringing physical healing and nourishment, Jesus came to offer forgiveness to those who would admit their need to receive it. And that is the first priority of the Church.
The verses above tell us that believers responded to a predicted famine by giving as they were able, but they did so by way of other believers. That's an important point. Though I have no problem with giving to secular relief funds, I prefer to support Christian organizations that provide not only food and water and other physical necessities, but can also provide the gift of eternal life by presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a gift that all people, particularly the Japanese right now, need desperately. The percentage of Japanese who are truly born-again believers is estimated to be as low as 1 percent of the population. Whether that's a true figure or not, we do know that the percentage is extremely low. As horrible as the physical destruction is in Japan, the most pressing need is for hearts to be open to the Truth of Jesus Christ.
As we respond to this crisis with physical and material contributions, may we not forget the crucial, eternal-life crisis that faces each one of us--the need to receive Jesus as Savior BEFORE we take our last breath. None of us knows when that will be, as the recent earthquake in Japan so vividly illustrates. Let's pray with passion and diligence for a great revival to sweep over Japan, as well as around the world, as the Day of the Lord draws ever closer.