Southeast Texas continues to reel from the horrifying damage of Hurricane Harvey, and those affected were faced with disappointment after asking for help from prominent Christian leader, Joel Osteen.
As the storm wreaked a devastating path through large parts of Texas and some in Louisiana, FEMA administrator Brock Brown said they are currently sheltering 32,000 TX citizens in 200 shelters and 325,000 people have already registered for FEMA assistance.
Although shelters provided aid to several displaced individuals, needs continued to grow for more space as the floodwaters rose.
Pastor of Lakewood Church, televangelist Osteen was asked to open his church doors last week, a building which holds worship services in a 16,000-seat arena and is the former home of the Houston Rockets basketball team.
Osteen claimed the church was unable to provide shelter to those in need because of severe flooding in Houston’s Upper Kirby neighborhood, where the church is located. However, despite Osteen’s claims about flooding, Upper Kirby residents said the area was far less affected by floodwaters compared to other areas.
Osteen’s social media messages to the public were met with backlash from social media users about whether the church was doing enough to help the tens of thousands displaced from their homes, many of which criticized the church for not representing the values of the Christian faith.
Some social media users defended Osteen and the Lakewood church, arguing a large staff would be necessary to open the building as a shelter and current staff members could be facing a dangerous flood situation themselves.
But when it comes to helping those in need, there is no shred of doubt in the Bible for Christians on whether or not to help.
I for one stand with the outraged social media users. As a Christian, I am embarrassed by Osteen’s blatant neglect of hurting citizens of his very own state and as someone who has firsthand witnessed the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in my state in 2005, I am angry.
Yes, Lakewood staff members were possibly facing the same dangers and impact on their homes, but the question is not whether or not we are okay and comfortable enough to help others. The question boils down the saying we wore on bracelets in elementary school – what would Jesus do?
Did Jesus, the One who made the greatest sacrifice for us, think twice when it came to healing or helping someone in need? Did Jesus consider they may not appreciate what he gives them or they possibly, or even surely, would take advantage of his kindness?
Of course not. We do not wait to help others until we are ready. We do not let our love of comfort outweigh our love for others.
Because of social media criticism, Osteen announced last Tuesday that Lakewood was finally opening their doors to Houston residents as a shelter. Already, the building has provided refuge to thousands of TX residents.
I am glad Osteen finally recognized the importance of opening his church doors, I just hope in the future Christians will be known for God’s impact on their hearts, not Twitter.