Chinese Church Voices

Responding to Tragedy

Chinese Church Voices is a weekly column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.


The world is full of tragedy, some arising from human causes, others from natural causes. Both result in suffering. In this article from the Christian Times published following the air disaster in China last month, the author reflects on how Christians should respond to the tragedies that impact them and others.

Reflections after the Crash of Flight MU5735:
Mourn with Those Who Mourn; Be Alert to Spreading Incidences of Survival that Damage the Gospel

On March 21, 2022, China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735, a Boeing 737 passenger aircraft, crashed with 132 people on board in Teng county, Guangxi province. The crash occurred after the plane took off from Kunming and disappeared en route to Guangzhou. Family members of the people on board cried brokenheartedly as they waited for the news in Guangzhou. Other people who heard the news could not help sighing. This air crash is very shocking.

According to the flight radar, at about 2:20 pm, the plane was cruising at an altitude of 8,860 meters near Wuzhou city. Suddenly, the aircraft nosedived at the speed of 100 meters per second. Currently, a large-scale search and rescue effort is being carried out in the local area.

Every disaster has the potential to awaken human society, motivating people to seek again the meaning of life and abandon the values that result in short-term benefits.

At the same time, disasters also inspire individuals to ask themselves: “What is the purpose of life? Will there really be absolutely nothing after death?” If someone gains the whole world, yet forfeits their soul, no matter how successful they are, when death approaches, what can they give in exchange for their precious souls?

Introspection: Christians Should Not Overemphasize Instances of Survival

After the air crash, the author observed that some Christians were sharing a WeChat post of a person who did not board the plane. In the post, she quoted from a well-known Christian hymn—”I Know Who Holds the Future.” As a result, many Christian individuals and “personal-media” (independently operated social media accounts) began to focus on and promote this perspective: “Because the person who did not board the plane is a Christian, she escaped the disaster.”

The author believes that it is inappropriate to spread this kind of testimony. Christians should not overemphasize individual instances of survival to bear witness to God’s love. This kind of testimony may actually damage the gospel. God does not need these kinds of “narcissistic” testimonies which will only create more misunderstanding about God. God desires both believers and non-believers to have a safe landing and a happy, healthy life. Tragedy happens for various complicated reasons. When we do not know the exact reasons behind a tragedy, we should not mislead people to believe that God’s love is only for Christians, not for non-Christians.

The core message of the gospel is that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. His heart desires everyone to be saved and live in the blessings of God. Jesus sacrificed his holy life as the atoning sacrifice for sinners. This kind of love transcends race, color, and belief. Such love and redemption are available to all people without preference, though people have the right to reject it.

After the Crash, What Should We Do?  

First, we can examine ourselves and see if we have grown content in the mindset that “as long as I am saved, all is fine.” We need to ask ourselves if we have lost interest in social issues and people’s suffering, if we feel no burden or grief in our hearts for the salvation of lost souls. Are we like the servant who received one talent from his master, yet in complacency and laziness hid the master’s money?

May our first zeal for preaching the gospel be restored. Among the 132 compatriots who died in the air crash, how many of them had never heard the gospel? How many of them died without being saved by believing in Jesus? Although we do not have answers to these questions, this tragedy serves as a reminder to the church and the Christian community: “Did these 132 victims have Christian friends and relatives preaching the gospel to them faithfully?”

You never know which will come first: your tomorrow or your end. Christians should love others through action and preach the gospel in their harvest fields faithfully.

Pray for the Victims’ Family Members

Among the passengers were:

  • a bridegroom who was to marry his fiancée after landing;
  • executives who were busy in their careers;
  • a 32-year-old captain surnamed Yang, who was a second generation pilot, low-key and skilled in his work, and who was not scheduled to fly that airplane but swapped with someone else;
  • a 24-year-old flight attendant who got married last year but, due to busy work schedules, had to postpone her long-awaited outdoor wedding ceremony to May 23;
  • a 16-year-old girl whose birthday would be the following week and who boarded the plane by herself seeking to return home safely.

A grieving family member of the victims told reporters: “All three children of mine were on the plane.”

Regardless of the victims’ identities and backgrounds, this air crash was a tragedy for their family members and friends who loved them dearly.

Let’s pray for the victims’ family members, that their traumatized hearts will be comforted. As humans living in this world, being in relationships is one of the important social attributes we possess. The most precious relationship is to love and be loved. Love and humans are inseparable. Once a person is deprived of a love relationship, there will be a wrenching pain in their hearts. When people die in accidents, their family members are thrown into despair that is like the darkest valley.

In this world, the death of a dear, beloved one brings great grief.

When Jesus was crucified on the cross, the Father hid his face from him, which resulted in the worst pain Jesus experienced—a break in his loving relationship with the Father. With the affection of Christ, let’s pray for the peace of our society and for those who are suffering to experience healing and comfort from God.

As for the victims’ family members, they need practical encouragement and companionship. They will once again ponder the meaning of life. We hope that more loving people will help them regain courage to move on and experience passion for life again. This will be the greatest comfort to the loved ones of those who passed.

How to Reduce Negative Vibes Brought about by the Tragedy

The author suggests that, on the one hand, the public transportation industry should strengthen the work attitude of nipping failure in the bud. The quality of supervision and management on pilots’ physical and mental health and on transportation hardware facilities need to be stricter in place.

On the other hand, in the internet era, everyone has a microphone and personal-media. Let’s stop bringing more negative vibes to our society. Let’s avoid bringing more hurt to the victims’ family members.

The following suggestions may help us maintain the boundaries of human nature.

  • Do not impersonate the victims and their family members.
  • Do not take the opportunity to exploit disaster in business marketing.
  • Do not joke about disaster and life.
  • Do not fabricate rumors to gain popularity.
  • Do not maliciously speculate on crew members and passengers.
  • Do not make up and spread conspiracy theories.
  • Do not film or share the victims’ pictures and videos.
  • Do not rush to interview the victims’ family members.
  • Do not use disasters for entertainment.

Let’s continue to give attention to the follow-up investigations. Let’s intercede in prayer and offer the loving service of listening and companionship to those who are hurting around us. Only by loving one another will everyone recognize the beauty of our faith.

Conclusion

It is often frustrating to see and hear bad news day after day. We often feel that tragedies are so powerful that we lose heart to make any positive response to them.

However, if we have the opportunity to understand our own life beforehand, we will find that life is brief and we need to cherish every moment. If we do that, will we still care about what the world cares about? Care about striving to become more honored by possessing more, more lovable by having more?

Compared with the external prosperity that we have to strive for and possess, we will find that we can enjoy the green sprouts from the ground, cheer for the rising sun, and be kindhearted and warm to others. But please, never forget your own preciousness while praising the life of others.

May you remember your preciousness and resist hostility when you are attacked.

May you believe in your preciousness and bravely move on when you are lost.

May the deceased rest in peace while the living move on with their lives. Please treat yourself and the people around you better!

Original article: 空难后的反思|与哀哭的人同哭 警惕宣传“幸存者案例”的做法折损福音, 基督时报Translated, edited, and reposted with permission.

Image credit: Jason Wong on Unsplash.
ChinaSource Team

ChinaSource Team

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