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Explosion in West, Texas leads to hope in crisis

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Baylor University student's hold a candle light vigil outside Waco Hall for the victim's of the West fertilizer plant explosion, April 17, 2013 (Credit:Waco Tribune Herald/Jerry Larson)

Tragedy has found us again, this time in the small town of West, Texas.  A fertilizer plant exploded, killing as many as 15 and injuring more than 160.  The blast shook houses 50 miles away and measured 2.1 on the seismic scale.  This disaster follows the Boston bombing on Monday as bookends on a tragic week.  But once again, a community’s response to its fallen offers hope in the hardest times.

Remember the runners who finished the Boston Marathon and went straight to the hospital to donate blood, and the people on the scene who ran to victims at great risk to themselves?  We are seeing the same response in Texas.  Three or four firefighters who are among the missing “were our first responders,” Waco police Sgt. William Swanton told reporters yesterday morning.  “They were the ones who went to the scene . . . and were actually fighting the fire as the explosion occurred.”

People in the community are already helping those who lost their homes.  Sgt. Swanton: “You talk about leaning on each other’s shoulders?  They are absolutely doing that.  I can promise you, the city of West’s citizens will not let a person stand out in the rain, whether they know you or not, they will bring you into their home and you will be comfortable.”

In speaking biblical truth to cultural issues, I often find myself commenting on negative or immoral trends in our society.  Today I am glad to highlight the very positive human tendency to help those who are hurting.  From Abraham’s intercession for the sinful people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:23-32) to the interfaith service in Boston that prayed for victims’ families yesterday, many of us are at our best when times are worst.  Made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), we share his heart for our hurting world.

Such compassion in crisis is our most powerful witness and ministry.  It is estimated that the typical adult goes through six major crises in his or her life.  Those who have not yet trusted Christ are often more open to faith during such difficulty than at any other time.  But Jesus’ followers must be there for those who hurt, when they hurt.  As Ken Medema says in one of his songs, “Don’t tell me I have a friend in Jesus until you show me I have a friend in you.”

Jesus’ “new command” to “love one another” comes with a promise: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).  Washington Irving observed that “great minds have purposes; others have wishes.”  Would you make it your purpose to show someone God’s love in yours today?