We grieve again…
The massacre in Orlando this past Sunday brought pain to so many – family, friends and to many of us. There is intense suffering and grief in so many hearts. It hurts deeply that so many lost their lives, many of them so young and with so much to live for, as I looked at their pictures and read their stories. A senseless act by a hate-driven individual has wrought destruction and despair. My heart goes out to all affected and afflicted.
We will take away many things from this and will talk about them for some time. The gun issue, security at clubs, follow-up on questionable individuals, the responsibility to alert authorities when threats are suspected. All of these and many more will be discussed, debated and determined over time. As I wept for the victims and horrors of this past week, I came across a lesson that I think might be hidden from many in the aftermath of this tragedy. It’s a lesson for all Christians everywhere. The lesson of practicing compassion and love.
Many have pointed the finger at Christians and our churches, accusing us of bigotry and intolerance. And, in some cases, rightly so. I believe that many of my brothers and sisters have given us, and God Himself, a bad name as they bad mouth and scorn gay individuals in our society. The hate that is sometimes seen, practiced by supposed Christ followers, is appalling to me.
I certainly understand that many who would call us Christians intolerant have, at least, two issues to deal with: first, the fact that we are all bundled into one intolerant group when someone says an unloving statement or performs an unkind act when, in fact, not all of us are like that; second, the realization that, even though some label us intolerant, we are also the recipients of intolerance by many of those same people that would label us as such.
But here is my bottom line today: if we are followers of Christ, and His teachings should guide our lives and His light should shine through us, then His example should be followed in all things. Was He not the one that touched lepers? Did He not give hope and a new life to a practicing prostitute? To the multiple divorcee, did He not extend grace? To a thief on the cross and for thieves in the marketplace, did He not die for him and dine with them also? Did He or did He not offer forgiveness to usurpers of power and religious hypocrites? As some only followed Him for food and miracles, did He not feed and heal? Wasn’t He respectful, kind, loving and compassionate to many “undeserving” individuals? And, last but not least, did He not have mercy on us, sinners accepted into His Kingdom through kindness and love?
I read a story yesterday that illustrates well what I’m talking about. Known for closing on Sundays, Chick-fil-a restaurants opened their doors, fired up the grills to make sandwiches and brewed tea, then served these to the people in line to donate blood and to law enforcement personnel. A company wrongly accused by some to be intolerant, showing love and compassion.
And the scores of churches that supported and helped, prayer vigils that were held and services that were conducted, even by many that would not approve of the lifestyle but that love and care for individuals made in the image of our God. In one church I heard off, a gay young man was overwhelmed by the fact that those he thought were against him were actually praying for him. Compassion and love have to be practiced, not just talked about.
As I have for most of my life, I will continue to uphold the standards spelled out in the Bible. All of the called out sins are wrong and all sins, both mine and yours, can be forgiven by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ. And, as the old adage says, the ground is level at the foot of the Cross. No one is turned away, gay and straight, rich and poor, homeless and home owners, healthy and sick, single and married, child and adult, employed and unemployed, lowly and mighty, Republican and Democrat…all of us can bring our individual sins with us, in a repentant manner, and find forgiveness.
When asked about the greatest commandment, Christ brought all the Scriptures down to two things – love God and love people. We might do well in practicing the second as we fulfill the first.