Omar Saddiqui Mateen carried two guns into a nightclub in Orlando, Florida that catered to the gay community on Sunday morning around 2 am. 3 hours later there were 50 dead people and an equal number of wounded. Of course, the cable news outlets started a non-stop stream of ‘reporting,’ repeating video clips over and over, filling in bits of information, correcting misinformation, interviewing ‘experts’ to explain the unexplainable. What seems clear is an unstable young man filled with hatred that was fed by a twisted view of his God decided to hand down the judgment that he thought some deserved for the way that they lived.
Today the choruses of fear, hate, judgment are in full voice! Will we join them from our choir loft, adding to the cacophony with our own song, sung so loudly we can hear no other? My earnest desire is to be thoughtful, compassionate, and to take time to reflect. I can predict the responses that will be thrown at me this week. There will be the voices who call for more restrictive gun ownership laws. There will be those who scream hatred for ‘religious zealots’ that they believe inspired this man to his evil acts. There will Christians who will make the regrettable decision to talk loudly about sin and judgment; suggesting that ‘those people’ somehow deserve to be gunned down by a hateful, deranged individual. Lord, I groan with despair even thinking about it.
And, there will be a lot who sadly choose to say nothing even when they hear foolish, hateful, stupid, or bigoted statement spewing from some loudmouth! This is a time to speak wisely, to invite dialogue, to ask why – and to really want to know. We can react from fear or we can act because of love. I am done with letting people say uninformed and/or stupid things in my presence without speaking up. (A disclaimer here – I confess to saying stupidly, uninformed things in the past. I ask forgiveness and thank God for truth tellers who did not let me get away with it.) I do not need to shout. I do not need to get angry, but I do need the courage to challenge the assumptions that are making America so terribly sick and divided.
I am praying for a gentle yet bold attitude that will not retreat from engagement with this crazy, upside down world that desperately needs people who are reasonable, truthful, and most of all – LOVING! We have listened too long to politicians who lambast groups with broad swipes of generalizations that demonize people in a wholesale way. We have given license to preachers of hatred, letting them take the beautiful Gospel of Christ and turn it into a club that they use to relentlessly pound on those they regard as ‘sinners.’
“Jerry, are you saying that we should give up our convictions?” No, but we must examine our preconceived ideas, our assumptions, and our ‘convictions’ to see if they are based in fact, in truth, or if they are just ideas with which we have grown comfortable.
I am convinced that Jesus Christ is the exclusive Way to know our Heavenly Father. No honest reading of the Gospels allows me to affirm that all religions lead us home. But, that conviction does not give me (or you!) license to hate those who are of a different faith. The Gospel is an invitation, not a judgment. I cannot retreat from truth about human sexuality that the Creator reveals to us in the Holy Scripture’s pages. Homosexual acts (as well as adultery, sex between unmarried adults, and consumption of pornography, among other things) are sins in the eyes of God.
And from those convictions (and more that I will not write about today) I will act as a proclaimer of Good News for all – a person who builds bridges, who makes peace, who confronts wrong with loving truth, not with guns! The Scripture tells us that our ‘ministry’ – our service – is shaped around a genuine desire to see reconciliation; people brought together, human and Creator restored to a love and filled with Hope. Paul says that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-21, NLT)
As you head into your world this Monday morning, controversy will swirl around you. Fearful people will be asking for answers, many jumping to unwarranted conclusions about Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Muslims, Gay and Straight people, about public policies, about God — even about you! Christian soak your heart and mind in the love of the Father. Rest yourself on the unshakeable foundation of the love of Christ that is yours by grace through faith.
Then, take this wisdom and live it. Here is a word from the Word. “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:16-21, NIV)