We see at the Cross the undeniable intersection of love and hate. It looked for awhile that hate had prevailed. But in the end, love rose, life conquered death and history was forever changed.
Hate comes to steal and kill and destroy; love comes that we might have life, redeemed.
When a lone gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. early Sunday morning we have insight into what he was thinking. “Law enforcement sources told NBC News he swore allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a phone call to 911 moments before the rampage at the Pulse Nightclub.”
To say that we can know what’s in a person’s heart goes beyond the scope of our humanity but we can judge a person by his words and deeds. By that measure, 29 year old Omar Mateen was filled with murderous hate toward gay people. That hate ended the lives of 50 people and changed the lives of many more. His actions will also change the national conversation. The trajectory that will take is yet to be determined but how we talk about it today influences our life together from this point forward.
Christians need to take the lead in condemning violence and hate targeted at the gay community. Because the Savior whose name we bear as Christ-followers, actually died in our place for our sins so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16) Because Jesus said he came so that we might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) It’s the enemy, who Jesus calls the thief, that comes to steal and kill and destroy. Does the carnage at Pulse look like life or death? Does the agenda of ISIS look to you like a promotion of life or death?
God gets dragged into all kinds of things that are not godly. And yes, God is often misrepresented by the very people charged with being His agents and ambassadors in the world today. That will mean that in response to the Orlando shootings we are going to see condemnations of all people whose sincerely held religious beliefs view homosexual acts as morally wrong. Be forewarned: if you are a conservative Christian you will be made to feel as if your position on same-sex marriage is somehow causal in this horrific crime.
The self-reflective conversation that Christians need to now have with one another is how do we live authentically as people possessed of the Spirit of the living God, full of grace and truth, representing God authentically as He is, in the face of this evil? How do we respond to the kinds of charges made by an ACLU attorney that this is the fault of conservative Christians who “created an anti-queer climate?”
#1. Listen before you speak. Unless you were there, this is not your immediate experience. Do not speculate. Do not pontificate and absolutely hold your tongue the moment you’re inclined to acerbate.
#2. Demonstrate that you are possessed of the Peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding as a witness against terrorism. Right now people are afraid. In particular, LGBT people are afraid. Their families are afraid. What they need is comfort and compassion not condemnation.
#3. When you speak, speak the truth in love: this was not of God. God has revealed Himself to be love. Love came from God as Jesus not to condemn, kill nor destroy. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly. When things happen like this horrific mass shooting in Orlando, we need to call it what it is: the work of the Enemy. Then we need to share with people the work of the living God.
Let’s also recognize ISIS wants to inflame a religious war between jihadi-Islamism and what they see as the evil of Western liberalism and infidels. We are a pluralistic secular democracy, and there’s a theocratic death machine that wants to destroy it. It is time we wake up to the reality that this is religious, even if as a culture we’re not self-consciously aligned with a particular faith.
Nations have defining moments. One year ago a lone gunman entered a church in Charleston with hate in his heart toward black people. What he meant for evil God has used for good in raising the racial reconciliation conversation in this country to the forefront. We are talking openly about things that we were not talking about a year ago. Christians are leading that conversation.
How will the fact that last night a lone gunman entered a gay nightclub in Orlando with hate in his heart toward gay people change the national conversation? How can Christians lead and not lag in that transforming conversation? And how can we do so with compassion but without compromise?
Its going to begin with our willingness to engage in conversation with people who see us as part of the problem.