49 people were gunned down and killed in an Orlando gay bar early Sunday morning, with another 53 wounded. You can read more about the gut-wrenching story here (CNN). The Orlando Sentinel is compiling a page where you can read a short tribute about each of the victims.
There are lots of heavy elements to this story: the shooter’s ISIS allegiance, a hate crime against the LGBT community, guns, an act of domestic terrorism, the pain the LGBT community is feeling, the pain the Latino community is feeling, and even the confusion some Evangelical Christians might feel about their (our) view that acts of homosexuality are sinful.
Well one of those heavy elements can be cleared up here and now: there need be no confusion whatsoever about how Evangelical Christians are to react to the Orlando massacre. Our reaction is to be an outpouring of love, mourning, prayer and solidarity. Period. Can we get over the fact that people are sinful and remember that people are people? Every person on the planet is sinful, yours truly leading the charge. The people in that nightclub were no more or less sinful than me or you. While most don’t want to hear it, the same goes for the shooter. Sin is sin and we all desperately need Jesus and thank God our (my) sexual sins don’t define us (me). Sin doesn’t negate the fact that we are all image bearers of our Creator (Genesis 1:27). We are all people who hold incredible dignity and value. Every person in that nightclub who was gunned down was an image bearer of God and God mourns with those who mourn. We are to do the same, Romans 12:14-18 makes this clear as day:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 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 everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
My emotions went from gut-wrenched to infuriated when I saw what was trending on Facebook Sunday afternoon: Westboro Baptist Church says “God Sent the Shooter,” celebrates the Orlando shooting.
For those unfamiliar with Westboro Baptist, they are a “church” made up of a handful of people in Topeka, Kansas, almost all of whom are related to one another. They are most known for picketing at funerals and their “God Hates Fags” signs that they hold up seemingly everywhere. If you follow their activities, their message is pretty much that “God Hates Everyone and Everything.” Somehow this small family of rag tag hateful lunatics get more press coverage than the New York Yankees, and often as representatives of Christianity! I really don’t want to write much more about them.
The only group of people it is difficult for me to apply Romans 12:14-18 to is Westboro and their ilk. Not the LGBT community; not ISIS; Westboro. They take my Jesus and prostitute him for their gain. They lie about my Jesus. They paint my Jesus as a fraud, and people then associate my Jesus with the fraud they’ve painted.
Pray for my heart that I will love Westboro and not repay their evil with evil of my own.
Let’s all come together and bless and not curse, mourn with those who mourn, live in harmony with one another, not be proud or conceited, not repay anyone evil for evil and as far as it depends on us, live at peace with everyone.
I don’t think I could have said it better myself.
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- Ep. 85: Dr. Terence Lester on how confronting buried racial history can build racial solidarity - August 9, 2023