COMMENTARY | Josh Monda
Humanitarian effort void of the gospel of Jesus Christ does nothing to change one’s eternal destiny. Moments after making this statement during a sermon, a tornado would rip through our town, passing a quarter mile from our church.
The day of the tornado was not without trouble, even before the storm came through Washington. A month before, my father-in-law had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. The day before the tornado, my 14-year-old daughter laid on my living room floor near death, and that evening was in the hospital.
Taking a full load in seminary, and trying to balance all that was going on in my life, I gathered our two young sons that Sunday morning and got them ready for church. The rest, as they say, is history. An EF-4 tornado hit our town as my congregation took shelter in the church basement.
It would have been easy then (and now) to focus on all that changed that day, or how everything after November 17 would be different than before. Indeed, a lot is different, even a year after the storm. Members of my church, deacons in my church, lost their homes. One of our deacons moved away, and for a small church, this is difficult.
Change has touched my family too. My daughter eventually recovered from the infection that put her in the hospital, but my father-in-law passed away before the tornado.
Not every change has been negative: After the storm, people seem more in tune to the needs of others, and thoughts about possessions have changed.
But my focus, and our church’s focus, is on something that will never change: the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was not by mistake that I would make the statement about humanitarian effort and the gospel moments before the tornado hit. Our focus has to be on the gospel.
When people are hurting, our focus must be the gospel.
When people are suffering, our focus must be the gospel.
When people know not where to turn, our focus is the gospel.
A tornado can change our circumstances, it can even change where we live. But a tornado will not transfer someone from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light; only the gospel does this.
As a people, as a church, we can allow a tornado to either drive us to what truly makes a difference, or distract us from it. May our focus be on what makes a difference; may our focus be on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Josh Monda is pastor of First Baptist Church in Washington.