I have taken a quite a bit of time to think and pray through how I want to response to all that has taken place in Orlando. When I found out, immediately I invited my friends to pray and wept for the travesty of hate and harm inflicted upon another person. At church, a group of us prayed for those who were hurt and the families of those murdered. In my heart, I felt a bit of anxiety because I knew that in less than 24 hours voices would fill the airwaves, posts and memes would fill twitter and Facebook and what would be lost in the agenda of opinions is that 49 people were murdered, 53 more were injured and humanity was assaulted. More than that, I wept because those who bear the image of God were killed and terrorized by another who bore the image of God.
I have friends who immediately filled in all the gaps with the worst of worst scenarios, blaming our culture, our homophobic culture for this act. I had friends who rushed immediately to the 2nd amendment – one side to call for its restructuring and the other to hold fast. Memes were put forward, internet studies were posted, bloggers raged, politicians did what they often seem to do, take advantage of tragedy to make a point. I have Muslim friends who said – “this does not reflect my beliefs” and others friends who said all Muslims are bad. My Gay friends said that this was because evangelicals hate gay people while most of my friends were stunned and called for prayer. What is the proper response in such a divided world?
I do not know if it is proper but here is my response.
1) I will continue to weep with those who weep. No person deserves to be murdered. No parent deserves to lose a child. No child deserves to lose a parent. No friend deserves to lose a friend. When sorrow falls faster than bullets fly, weeping is a good response for me.
2) I will continue to pray. When a person prays, God actually hears and acts. I am going to keep praying.
3) I will continue to try my best to listen. A lot is being said and not much is being heard. When a person arrives at a conversation with a conclusion, it most often never becomes a conversation.
4) I will not try to explain why. “Why” is beyond my pay grade and anyone who acts as if they have corner on “why” is either really, really smart – like God smart or they are just fooling themselves. “Why” acts as a thief and it steals from us confidence that God is good, that he loves and that he is powerful. So, when the world rushes in to explain why, when every news channel offers reasons, when memes abound… I am going to live in the tension of the uncertainty of life and real certainty with God. Even if I knew “why” and could explain it perfectly, not one parent who lost a child that night would suddenly say – “Ah, now it is okay, it all makes sense now that I know why.” Why often tramples over the grieving by seeking power to explain pain, that kind of power does not bring healing.
5) I am going to keep grace and truth intertwined together. Representing Jesus well requires that grace and truth never be separated and that conversely, they be fully integrated. Shouting or preaching condemnation to LGBT community, making inflammatory statements about Muslims, assaulting the motives of people who are honest, hard working and also have guns… This is so easy to do – Summing up wisdom in memes to post on Facebook, posting inflammatory posts that label groups… all easy to do because they separate grace and truth. Keeping grace and truth together is the much more difficult road because it is costly and quite often misunderstood. Grace and truth lead to a cross. Grace and truth lead to the use of power that loves the least, seeks the lost and sacrifices for others. In the end, only when grace and truth remain intertwined, is the power of God for the transformation of all peoples sin infected heart and the broken world in which we live unleashed to do it’s full redemptive work.
6) I will look for answers in Christ alone. Jesus used his power to love the poor, bring freedom to the enslaved, heal the sick, lift the burdens of the oppressed and to announce this is the day of grace and hope. I will not look for answers in the political system. Politics offers no hope for transformation and for curing the sickness that lies within humanity, sin. Quite often when faith and politics combine, those with the power get to decide the meaning of faith. This is why the Christian world tolerated slavery for so long and why Native Americans suffered at the hands of Christian manifest destiny.
7) I will stand firmly but gently. I understand that what I believe has become more and more difficult to accept in our culture. I will stand firmly but gently against hate. Pastors who call for more death, more harm and more hate do not represent the Jesus of the Bible. I stand firm against that hate filled voice. I also stand firmly and gently for a biblical view of sexuality and marriage. I do not hate those who disagree but I personally cannot love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and not stand in this place. If I cannot love God first and fully, then all my neighbor can receive from me is a cheap knock-off kind of love that holds no value for the soul.
8) I will act. There is much in this world to do and so many of us pontificate about it but do nothing about it. Values are lived not recited! I have something to do and I will act – so if I do not debate you, argue with you or spend a lot of time on your arguments, forgive me please, I am quite busy.