I recently saw this billboard shared a few times on Facebook just a day or two after the Orlando shooting. As people deal with the grief and shock of the horrific events of June 12, they have begun to try to find a way to move forward. One way for some has been to reenter, or dive deeper into, the gun control debate. Don't get me wrong, it's a debate worth having, but the trouble with a billboard like this is that it claims to be interested in "the issue of the heart" when in reality it distracts. Likewise, we can be too quick to take a side on the gun control issue, when we haven't even begun to evaluate ourselves and what our contribution (negative or positive) is to the healing of our country after a tragedy. While the truth is that if Omar Mateen walked into Pulse with a rock it is likely that 49 people would still be alive, the underlying issue is that we would still have "an issue of the heart."
So let's accept the invitation into the conversation about the heart. As we try to put the pieces of our lives back together in the aftermath of the devastating event of this past weekend, let's enter the conversation about what to do next; how to move forward. As Christians, what is our role?
An American walked into the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando on Sunday and shot and killed 49 people because of his hatred of LGBTQIA people. Yes, there are other factors at play here. Yes, we've come a long way in the attitudes of our society toward gay people. But the truth is, LGBTQIA people still often feel discriminated against, isolated, marginalized, oppressed, misunderstood, hated, etc. As Christians, what is our response to the pain of the LGBTQIA community? But not just to the LGBTQIA community, rather to any person who feels as though the world is saying NO to who they are, to their very souls, to their very personhood?
As Christians, it is our role to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And what is that Gospel? That Gospel is that Jesus through his suffering is in solidarity with our suffering; and that Jesus through his resurrection reconciles us to Love. As Christians we worship LOVE (I John)! Love is literally relational - there is no love without a subject and an object. What's more? We worship the Trinity. Our God is three in one - three persons in one. The Trinity is God in relationship with God's self. God is literally relationship. If we are to emulate God's image in this world what does that look like? It looks like loving fruitful whole relationships. And it looks like relationships with those who are other from - those who are different than - you!
You may be tempted to say here that loving someone means telling them what their sins are so they can address them and get those sins out of their life, but don't be tempted down this deep dark hole.
Loving someone is being in relationship with them, being the person who embraces another person (both literally and figuratively) and says - our identities are complicated, I don't understand them, and maybe I don't understand you but I tell you what - you're awesome.
Maybe for you loving someone is telling them about Jesus, and that is great! But If that's how you love someone, be sure the invitation to a relationship with Jesus is also an invitation to relationship with you. Use that relationship to speak encouragement, affirmation, kindness and peace into that person's life.
Let God deal with whatever speck is in that person's eye - you focus on that plank in your own (Matthew 7) and in the meantime, just say yes to whoever walks into your life. And maybe even take it a bit further - go actively seeking relationships with people you have might not have ever known, ever met, or ever considered sharing a meal with. Invite them into your life, into your family, into your social circle, into your church and say WELCOME HOME! I'm with you, God is with you, let's try to get through this life together!
Don't get distracted by debates around the issues. Engage in them sure, but don't get distracted. Take a look at yourself. Are you using your life, your relationship with Jesus, your role in the body of the Church, to build people up? Or to tear them down? If you truly want to change the world - then reflect the beautiful relationship of the Trinity to each person. I don't care if that person is gay, Muslim, atheist, blonde, foreign, black, redheaded, funny or not funny. To everyone say - Jesus lives inside of me, and Jesus is home for everyone; therefore I am home for everyone.