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Where Was God at the Grenfell Tower?

June 15, 2017 by

The pictures from the burnt Grenfell Tower in west London are horrifying. As of today, there is still no proper count of how many people died. But you can tell that it will be a lot.

A fireman working in the Grenfell Tower
Searching for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire

It certainly shouldn’t have happened – and those responsible will have to face justice, but it was saddening to see the witch-hunt already starting in the media while the tower was still burning.

But then the generosity of Londoners kicked into gear. Hundreds of volunteers streamed to centers and churches close to the tower bringing food, clothing, toys, and other essentials. There was so much donated that further donations are being turned away. We sent a couple people over from our place in Peckham, but by the time they arrived, there was nothing they could do apart from buy a few pillows.

It is incredible to see Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and those of no faith working together to try to bring relief to people who have suffered so much.

But we should be under no illusions – there are many people who suffer each day, and because their suffering never hits the news, they receive very little help. This is a great shame, since as Grenfell shows, people are more than willing to help.

Donations made to victims of the Grenfell Tower fire line the streets
Donations made to victims of the fire

This connects to a book I read recently, by a friend called Krish Kandiah. I guess you shouldn’t offer to review a book for a friend, since it really limits how many negative things you can say about it.

Fortunately, with God Is Stranger, there is no need to worry.

The book works its way through the Bible, picking out the parts where God makes a personal appearance. It talks about Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, and many more. It ends in the New Testament with Jesus.

As Justin Welby points out in the forward, the question “where is God” is one often asked, and often at times of despair and suffering. The book doesn’t offer a formulaic response to that, but does give you the sense that God is always here, and maybe we just fail to see him.

I have read the Bible through twice in the last two years. It has been a rewarding experience, but one that had furthered my disconcerting feeling that I don’t really know who God is. I don’t understand some of the parts of the Bible that God Is Stranger picks up on (why did God wrestle all night with Jacob?).

Luckily, for those of us who struggle with such thoughts, Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31–46. It is here we get the clearest idea of where God is: he is found in the suffering children, those in prison, the hungry, the naked. And true worship and discipleship is to serve those people.

Krish founded “Home for Good,” a charity that provokes individuals and churches to get involved with fostering and adopting. He fosters and adopts children himself. When you know this is the case, God Is Stranger goes from being an academic look at the Bible to being a book to call people to the service of Jesus through service to others. The book ends with a discussion about the Good Samaritan. As Krish writes:

He could have wished the injured man well from the other side of the road, prayed for him, or lit a candle as a symbol of solidarity. He could have called for help on his behalf, sent some money to the local shelter, or held a bake sale, or run a marathon for other stranded victims. There is no end to the number of projects he could have undertaken. But this was no project – this was a person in need. The hospitality the stranger showed was immediate and intimate, above and beyond the call of his personal duty.

The volunteers who brought aid to Grenfell Tower were being that good Samaritan, and were truly living out Matthew 25. The firefighters who put their lives on the line, and who now must carry out the terrible task of finding the dead are doing it as well. You can see Jesus in them, and in those who suffer.

This is the challenge to us then – having seen God in someone else, let’s not hesitate to help.

Bernard Hibbs lives at Darvell, a Bruderhof in East Sussex, England.


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  • Hi Tom, thanks for the response. As a Christian, I can see Jesus (who helped people without expectation of something in return) in all those who were serving that day. As a non-believer, you see "humanity" in them. I think this is just two different ways of viewing the same thing. The value of that thing (someone loving others) is unchanged. But when it comes to discussions of good and ill, responsibilities for actions and the good we do, if you don't believe in God, who gets to decide the definitions of those words? Humans? And if so, what do you do if another human decides something different than you? I would love to hear your response, as I find this an interesting topic!

  • As someone who doesn't identify as a Christian, I'm always amazed at the formula applied by Christians by which Jesus is responsible for the best in Man. You can conclude, 'You can see Jesus in them, and those that suffer.' What does that actually mean? If you can answer that without the typically indulgent and tortuous sophistry, then all power to you. But why not give credit to the humanity of the firefighters, and the selfless helpers of all faiths, and not try to appropriate it for Christianity? In the first instance, we are accountable to each other and ourselves. We are responsible for our own actions, good or ill, and can credit ourselves and each other for the good we do.

  • A human life is the most importand in the world. We are glad that Christian , Muslims and Sikhs are working together for saving a life that is the incredible creation of the God. We think and pray God for those people who were suffered from fire. Thank you Bernard.

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