Hurricane Harvey and the Golden Rule: Putting Jesus’ words into action

September 22, 2017

Discipleship with the Suffering Servant changes the way we live during a disaster. When hurricane Harvey pummeled the greater Houston area, the Church of the risen Lord Jesus responded in ways I’ve never seen. I don’t just mean in the tonnage of relief supplies and sweat dropped during the recovery efforts. I’m talking about unity.

Churches are working across denominational lines to help Houston recover. Our little church alone has worked with Methodists, Bible Churches, Non-Denominational, Anglican, and more. Disaster didn’t divide the churches in Houston—it united us. And just this past weekend, our church hosted teams from churches in Austin and Commerce, Texas, and another team that drove from Phoenix, Arizona to help us mud-out and demo flood-hit homes in Houston. Why? Why did we bear the burdens of our neighbors? Why are Christians acting this way? Jesus and his so-called Golden Rule.

“Whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

The urgency of the Golden Rule

Disaster didn’t divide the churches in Houston—it united us.

There are certain ethical situations which are often difficult to navigate, taking time, serious thought, counsel, and research. The answer to other situations is simple. If Jesus is my Lord, then the Golden Rule isn’t just décor for Sunday School rooms.

The Golden Rule strapped a life vest on me and put me on a rescue boat. As the rain kept pouring, and pouring, and pouring, I looked out my window and saw my street draining smoothly. But I started to hear of streets swelling with water. Ten minutes from my house, people were trapped. Single moms were in danger. The elderly needed immediate help. I couldn’t stay home and watch Netflix anymore.

The words of the Lord Jesus wouldn’t let me kick my feet up while I heard that my neighbors were in need. I knew, by faith, something had to be done. A friend at church texted and said he found a boat, told me to meet him at a makeshift rescue and dispatch station. By faith, I was ready.

Our boat cruised over a four-lane road, covered in five feet of water. We went over mailboxes, cars, and docked our boat at the first address we were given. I hoped it was the right address. I couldn’t see the numbers. Terry and his wife were trapped upstairs with three feet of water in their home. And the waters kept rising. Terry, in his 60s, is paralyzed from the waist down and has limited use of his arms. We put him in his wheelchair, carried him downstairs, and hoisted him up into the boat, along with his wife and their dogs.

If I were paralyzed and trapped upstairs of my flooding home, I’d want someone to rescue me. Sure, it was a little dangerous. But it would have been more dangerous to ignore my neighbor and walk on the non-flooded side of the street. Discipleship is always dangerous to self.

The simplicity of the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule, and the ethics of loving thy neighbor as thyself, is not complicated. What would you want done for you? Our Lord says, “Do that for them.”

If my home had six feet of water in it, destroying nearly everything hit by the polluted waters—photo albums, clothes, children’s soccer cleats—would I want to mud-out my home by myself? Never. I would want—need!—others to help empty my garage, rip out sheetrock, and carry scraps of water-logged carpet to the curb. Jesus tells me what I should do. “Whatever you’d want done for you, do it for them.”

No ethics committee needs to be organized for these moments. It’s simple—and supernatural. The Golden Rule is so simple, and monumental, that it can be described in a single sentence—and yet, it can summarize the Law and Prophets. It is the aroma of faith in the reigning Nazarene.

Don’t sleep on the Golden Rule. It might toss you onto a rescue boat. Jesus’s words may cause you to pick up a hammer, become an amateur dispatcher, or even make gallons of gumbo for a shelter. The Golden Rule may even cause you to slow down and listen to what someone else is going through. These famous words from Jesus may even lead you to unite with another church down the street.

What would change in your life today as you live by faith in your crucified and risen Lord? How would the do of the Golden Rule move you if you listened Jesus? Rescue boats, demo crews, and donations for disaster relief come and go. Neighbors do not. Opportunities to live by faith are ripe everywhere. Pick them.

The Man of Sorrows was acquainted with our grief. He loved us in the depths of our personal disaster. He motivates us to enter into the sorrow of others, helping us point them to a refuge and help above the clouds, beyond the horizon.

When we got Terry to dry land, we put him in a truck, loaded up his things, and I told him one thing. It all happened so fast, I could only think of one thing to say as our eyes locked: “The Lord Jesus be with you.”

That’s what I needed to hear too.

Jeff Medders

J.A. Medders is the lead pastor of Redeemer Church in Tomball, Texas, where he lives with his wife Natalie and their two kids. He is the author of Gospel Formed and blogs at jamedders.com. Read More