Philippians 2:3 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. But in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
Houston is America’s fourth-largest city. Its metropolitan area covers about 10,000 square miles. That’s bigger than the state of New Jersey. And Houston ranks as one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America, where over 180 different languages are spoken by people from all different nationalities, skin colors, and religions. But something much more significant has happened this past couple of weeks in Houston, as it has taken center stage in the news media. Houston has squashed the notion of racism.
Hurricane Harvey hit Houston as a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds, parking itself over the Gulf Coast area for days and unleashing over 30 inches of rain onto the city. Harvey was the worst hurricane to hit the US in the past 15 years and the most devastating Texas hurricane in the past 50 years. In Fort Bend County, the Brazos River rose to a level of 56 feet. It floods at 45 feet. In several instances even homes were underwater. People became desperate to survive, as life-threatening floodwaters continued rising.
How did Americans respond to the devastation and carnage in Houston? What did we witness from Texans and Americans? In one instance, Chick Fil-A manager Cindy Smith sent her husband, a black man, over to the home of an elderly white couple trapped in their living room with rising floodwaters to rescue them. He showed up on a jet ski! He saved their lives. Apparently he didn’t get the memo that white people are racists who don’t deserve rescue. Then there is the story of Cyrus Dawson and Spencer Sherf, who used their military vehicle to rescue an Overland Park from floodwaters. They drove the vehicle to Houston to do it again - save people from Hurricane Harvey. They are both white. They also don’t seem to understand – they aren’t supposed to put their own lives in harm’s way for anyone, whether red, yellow, black or green.
In his article entitled “Houston flood evacuee: Political cartoons can go to Hell, I'm GOING TO TEXAS!” Jeremiah Johnston’s put it this way: “The catastrophic nature of this natural disaster is only matched by the unprecedented outpouring of love, heroism, dedication and effort by thousands of Americans who are risking their lives for the fellow man. Even as hearts have been broken by the flooding, the country is healing as we are all witnessing the sacrificial and selfless spirit of America. Strangers are becoming quick friends. Neighbors are truly becoming neighbors. People are looking out for one another. This is the America I know and the America we all love.” This is the true character of America. The white supremacist narrative from leftist secularists that dominates our media has, for a few weeks, been completely silenced.
In his book ‘Louder than Words’, Pastor Andy Stanley defines character for us, and using this definition we should be proud of what we witnessed in Houston: “Your character is who you really are. It will impact how much you accomplish in this life. It will determine whether or not you are worth knowing. It will make or break every one of your relationships. Your character is the internal script that will determine your response to failure, success, mistreatment, and pain. It reaches into every single facet of your life. It is more far-reaching than your talent, your education, your background, or your network of friends. Those things can open doors for you, but your character will determine what happens once you pass through those doors.
Your good looks and net worth may get you married; your character will keep you married. Your God-given reproductive system may enable you to have children; your character will determine your ability to relate to those children. There are things that can put you at a disadvantage in the starting blocks of life. You don’t choose your starting point. But you do have the opportunity and responsibility to choose where you end up. Character is not as much an issue of where you are as it is where you’re headed.
And the development of your character is not a ‘be all you can be’ kind of thing. The truth is, most of us are being all we can be. And that’s the problem. Being all we can be isn’t enough. We need to be what we aren’t, and, left to our own devices, we can’t become anything other than what we are.”
And that brings us to our verse for this week. In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul uses Jesus Christ as the model of true character. Christ esteemed our lives as more valuable than His own, willingly giving His life to pay for our sins so that we could all have the opportunity to reunite with God and have eternal life in heaven. Christ didn’t leave us to our own devices. He rescued us from ourselves. In Houston, we admire the personal sacrifice of Americans for the sake of one another. In the Cross of Jesus Christ, we have the ultimate sacrifice that is more than something to admire – it literally transforms who we are.
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.