The history of Haiti is a history of abuse and suffering. Spain had turned the island into a sugar factory run by slave labor. Having ravished the land, Spain abandoned the country to the French who established a brutal slave operation until the revolution of 1791, when, as many other colonies were doing, the Haitians managed to yank themselves from under the yoke of France. But revolution did not bring freedom or a better life. Brutal dictators and corrupt governments have further devastated the people, leaving them to live in hopeless poverty.
And now an earthquake has leveled cities, and reports indicate that the loudest cry is that of the preachers of the land preaching the imminent return of Jesus, and repentance or further judgment from God. The vast majority of the people adhere to the teachings of Rome. Protestants are the minority. Many of these mix their faith with the idolatrous spirit-world religion of voodoo, and perhaps fear that disquieted spirits are to blame. The evangelical preacher Pat Robertson links the judgment of God in this quake to the rumor that the Haitians, in their desperate attempt to throw off the catholic French in the late 1700’s called upon the devil to help them.
Preachers who would rather avoid the public outcry against Robertson’s statement either ignore the concept of judgment or blame the terrible suffering on the devil and call upon God to sooth this devastated nation with his love and mercy. For those who imagine a common grace of God displayed in the progress man makes in this world, the island of Haiti appears to have fallen between the cracks.
The world gnashes its teeth against anyone who “wastes” their time on reasons (especially religious reasons) and calls upon everyone to pitch in with whatever they can and help these people in this time of great need. If the Haitian preachers want to babble about judgment, so be it, let’s show them the power of human compassion and money. Let’s salvage what we can, and use this terrible event as a springboard to demonstrate what man can do when we set aside prejudice and unite for the good of fellow men and women. Maybe this is where common grace fits in: Haiti offers an opportunity for the fruits of common grace—the relief organizations, technology, and human care—to be displayed on a grand scale for all the world to see. God won’t take all the glory, but in willing helplessness gives opportunity for man to link the power of grace with human resourcefulness and share in the glory. That is common grace.
Nobody, except for a believer in the absolute sovereignty of God, could find anything offensive with the common grace approach to redeeming the Haiti situation. The Haitian believer sitting alone among the rubble of his home who knows the sovereignty of God in his or her salvation finds no comfort in a god who can’t control the tectonic plates of the earth and depends on man to reveal love and mercy through the power of a common grace. Certainly he receives earthly gifts from man with thankfulness, but he also recognizes that this earth is not his abiding home. A gift from a fellow brother or sister in the Lord and in the name of the Lord to alleviate earthly needs would make such a saint rejoice and give thanks to his covenant God. And when we can, let us give in the name of the Lord. While the earth groans under the judgments of God, he hears the footsteps of his Lord and Savior coming to deliver those whom He has redeemed from sin. With the psalmist, and the church of all ages he sings Psalm 147.
Praise ye the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely. The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. The Lord lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground. Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God: Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy. Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion. For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee. He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat. He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly. He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes. He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold? He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow. He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord” (Psa 147:1-20).