After Sunday’s tragedy of the shooting in Orlando (and the one that almost occurred in California) I’ve watched a wide range of reactions unfold.
Of course those directly affected showed their overwhelming grief.
Many showed sympathy and empathy through memorials, act of kindness, promises of prayer, donation of blood.
Others expressed anger at multiple parties.
Some used the event as a way to blast others: Muslims, leaders, lawmakers, presidential candidates, guns supporters/opponents, you name it.
And many whose belief systems conflicted with those of the people killed in a gay bar stayed quiet.
Internally, I found myself with mixed feelings about each of these groups. I am deeply saddened by the loss, the hatred, the grief. I am encouraged by those who chose to do everything possible to show love, especially in a practical manner. I am angered by the way some warped the tragedy to fit their agendas.
As a Christian, I believe we as the Body of Christ have a very clear command to follow in this and all painful circumstances: LOVE.
Too cliché? Perhaps. But the challenging part is not showing selective love where it feels best.
Loving the LGBT Community
Many of my friends have made beautiful comments on Facebook, reaching out to those in grief and condemning the horrific act done. Christian businesses such as Chick-fil-A went out of their way to give practical help. Christian leaders and writers issue the call to pray, grieve, and show love.
But to some in the LGBT community, the response doesn’t seem to be in line with negative, often hateful, messages they have been receiving repeatedly from the church. It would be easy to question to authenticity of kind words from the same mouths carrying disdain.
Did something change overnight? Is the expression of kindness out of a sense of obligation (nobody wants to look cold hearted), or is this opening eyes to see deep wounds in real people?
I don’t expect people to change their opinions on issues like gay marriage. But the display of love should never be isolated to a horrific event. These real, hurting people have already struggling with the same issues everyone else is, often compounded by feelings of rejection and belittling. Judging others is not our calling. Loving is… not just after a shooting.
Can this be a wake-up call? Are we willing to reach out, to build bridges and relationships, hoping that members of the LGBT community are gracious enough to give us a chance?
Loving the Muslim Community
Recently I was with two Muslims as they broke the daily Ramadan fast. We shared food and conversation about God, fate, and suffering. We wrestled with how unfair life can be, yet the amazing ways God can bring us out of challenging times, whether war in the Middle East, ongoing health problems, or unexpected disasters. Their words were far closer to the truth of Scripture than they were to the violence of ISIS.
They are not the only kind-hearted, hospitable Muslims in the US. They represent the vast majority. So when I hear blanket statements made about Muslims because of the actions of one American man who aligned himself with whatever hateful radical Islamist group he could, I am grieved. Blocking refugees fleeing from war-torn countries because of their faith will not stop the actions of an abusive, aggressive US citizen, even if that man calls himself Muslim.
[Meanwhile in California, the police stopped a man headed toward a gay pride event with assault rifles and explosive chemicals. Anyone notice that no statements were made about whatever faith or ethnic community this man represented? All I know is that he looks white and is from Indiana.]
Muslims across the country have condemned the atrocity that occurred. Many reached out in practical ways, donating blood despite the daytime fast of food and water. Others gathered to pray for the victims and their families. They respond to the incredible pain and loss being experienced in Orland and across the nation.
Yet, how often do we do that for them? Many of those who have escaped war-torn countries still have family members and friends left behind. They hear of their entire villages being destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of their countrymen have been killed. Millions of fellow Muslims have been displaced, many dying in their attempts to seek refuge. Has your church or community ever have a vigil for them?
This month, during the observance of Ramadan, many Muslims are actively seeking God, seeking truth. Now is the time to reach out to them, pray for them, talk to them, ask to hear their stories, tell yours, build friendships.
Loving Politicians (on all sides)???
Okay, I have to admit this might be the hardest one for me right now. I find myself constantly frustrated with the leading candidates of both parties. Fundamental rights of life and liberty seem to be threatened in different ways by either side, whether the unborn child or the fleeing refugee. I’m saddened by the constant patterns of attack and hate, the use of fear, the warped truth. I don’t like the way “allegiances” to parties or leaders are leading to more conflict and harsh words within the church. So how do I show love?
There may be space for “speaking the truth in love” for some issues that I see as critical. I strongly disagree with some of the statements and actions I see, and won’t accept or ignore them. But I am making an effort to not get sucked into chain of attacks, and would challenge others to do the same. We can still love those in another party; we can still have discussions without belittling each other. We can still pray for our present and future leaders, especially when addressing significant issues like crime, gay rights, immigration, refugees, guns, mental health, domestic violence, and the list goes on and on.
This is the time to step up to the plate and show love to everyone, regardless of differences in background or beliefs. Jesus told His disciples that they would be recognized by their love. Is that how we are recognized today?