Commentary: Hurricane Harvey, prayers and God in action

Volunteers at Trinity Klein Lutheran Church, Spring, Texas — including (from left) Rachel Hill, Joanna Stanley, Rosy Martinez, Karsen Martin and her father, Butch Martin — drop off and organize supplies for Hurricane Harvey victims at the church Sept. 2. (LCMS/Erik M. Lunsford)

By Gregory P. Seltz

What an incredible, awesome and powerful sight it was, amid the trials of Hurricane Harvey, to see people risking all to save those in need.

Who can ever forget the countless pictures of neighbors helping neighbors, the images of “human chains” formed to reach into the raging waters to save?

Who can forget the mother who gave her life to save her child, or the “Cajun Navy” ready to put their boats to work — not for leisure but for rescue?

And, of course, there were the untold thousands of people of faith continuing to give time, effort and money to help the victims of this tragedy. So many unofficial acts of bravery and sacrifice (love in action) — too many to count.

Add to this the official acts of bravery and sacrifice: the police and firefighters who did their jobs in harrowing circumstances; Officer Steve Perez, who gave his life for the cause, telling his wife, “I have a job to do”; and the local, state and federal governments who were prepared to meet this challenge head on, doing their parts with honor.

It was disconcerting to see a cartoonist take political shots at people of faith amidst this massive disaster.

The cartoon I have in mind (and others have called attention to it, too) makes fun of a rescued Texan, depicted clownishly, who calls his rescuers “Angels! Sent by God!” Of course, he is corrected in that his rescuers are “actually Coast Guard … sent by the government.”

Considering the sacrifices of people in general, people of faith in particular, and honorable people “doing their jobs,” someone has to say this? These are the times in which we live, I guess.

When we pray this week and in the days to come, we ought to give thanks for the heroic efforts of all, including the “Coast Guard … sent by the government.”

But we ought to give thanks to God all the more. He was and is at work in this catastrophe to rescue imperiled people.

In fact, in our broken, sinful world, God is at work in two ways to save. One way is through the vocations of people serving one another individually, through families and neighbors (both believers and nonbelievers), and through police, firefighters, state and federal governments, etc.

When you see God at work through the vocations He has established to keep this broken world from totally self-destructing, give Him thanks!


But secondly, and even more important, give thanks to God for being the author in Christ of everlasting rescue, ultimate sacrifice, enduring love, and abundant and eternal life. The earthly sacrifices we see today through vocation and love for neighbor point to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross for all.

When the cartoonist took a shot at a person of faith for thanking the angels for his rescue, he made the mistake of pitting government against God, or government against the Church. In truth, it’s not an either/or proposition; rather, it’s a both/and — and it is ordered in God’s way. 

Lutherans and many other Christians know that God rules in two ways — through His Kingdom of the Left (worldly, secular) and His Kingdom of the Right (heavenly, spiritual).

In the middle of one of the worst natural disasters in the history of our country, we have seen honor in action, love in action and service in action through governments, agencies, churches, families and individuals.

But we also have seen God in action, and for that we give Him the ultimate thanks.

The Rev. Dr. Gregory P. Seltz ( is executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C.

Posted September 6, 2017

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One Response to Commentary: Hurricane Harvey, prayers and God in action

  1. September 7, 2017 at 8:01 am #

    Thanks Rev. Seltz. Most Christians have never heard of the Left and Right Hand Kingdom because I think only Lutherans teach this…something that every Christian should be taught. God bless your work with the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty! We are praying for you!

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