Man, we live in a mixed-up world...
Early on Sunday morning, America experienced its worst mass shooting as a disturbed man opened fire in a nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and wounding dozens of others.
So, being human, we immediately began pointing fingers and posting blogs about it. The gunman was a Muslim who pledged allegiance to ISIS, so this must be another example of Muslim extremism. The nightclub was frequented by homosexuals, so this must be another example of straight culture hating gay culture. The man used an automatic weapon, so this must be another example of how the NRA supports gun violence on a massive scale. Conservatives blame liberals, liberals blame conservatives, Christians blame Muslims, gays blame straights, etc.
But here’s a thought worth at least pondering. In the past few years, madmen have killed Amish schoolchildren because they’re Amish, and African-Americans because they’re African-American, and Federal employees because they’re Federal employees, and gays because they’re gay... and the list goes on and on. So I’d argue that the problem isn’t at its core racist or homophobic or religious or political or even gun-related (since some madmen have used homemade explosives or anthrax to kill). The problem isn’t that we’re too divided, or that we need to embrace more victimized and marginalized people in the world, or that we could stop this sort of thing if we just had more laws or more protests or more reciprocal disdain for the groups represented by the killers.
No, the problem is that we increasingly lack the love and the grace that only comes from understanding the love and the grace that God shows toward everyone -- even toward those who are markedly (even arguably foolishly) different from us.
We sow militant discord, and we reap militant discord. We affirm that it’s okay for Group A to hate Group B, what with Group B having been so bad to Group A in the past... which just makes Group B despise Group A all the more... which just makes Group A feel all the more justified in hating Group B... We want to believe that it’s always wrong to tell anyone else that they’re wrong -- and that those who do so are horribly wrong to do so -- and then we wonder why people increasingly spend so much time thinking about how wrong everyone else is. We increasingly clump together (on the internet and in the physical world) into “communities” based on being similar in beliefs and dispositions, and we increasingly define ourselves by what we aren’t and by whom we fear and loathe. In short, as we saw this week in Judges 3, when we sow sins, we will always reap the yucky consequences of those sins (leading to the unpleasant story of the left-handed judge, Ehud).
We sow a mounting, victimized and victimizing disdain, and we reap a violent hatred that wants to destroy anything different from us. We create our own divided, protesting, offensive, fearful, hateful world... instead of being agents of God in genuinely changing the world by sincerely and actively loving each and every person around us, every day. Grace is a lost art in our world -- the grace that says, “I think you’re wrong -- even stupidly wrong -- but I can still genuinely love you in the midst of our disagreement.” How will the world learn grace if you and I don’t commit to showing it to them today?
So part of me wants to say that my heart goes out to the LGBT community who have been so shaken by this event, but it’s the same part of me that wants to say that my heart goes out to the Muslim community who have been so attacked by and because of ISIS... which is the same part of me that wants to say that my heart goes out to the black community who have been so victimized by gun violence in this country... which is the same part of me that wants to say that my heart goes out to the Amish community, and to the families of the victims of 9-11, and to my own niece who was attacked this weekend by an irrationally militant aggressor...
At what point is it better, wiser, more logical, and more Biblical to simply let my heart go out to the whole world, and do that every day, and not just feel bad for the perceivably victimized community who happens to be in the crosshairs of a madman this week?
What if everyone let their heart go out every day to everyone else, instead of just fearfully (or even supportively) building better walls around communities? What if we all actually lived each day like ambassadors for Jesus Christ and His love? A love that says, “I love you enough to tell you that I think that you’re genuinely screwed up... but I also love you enough to be willing to die to save your life...”
What would the world look like if each of us consciously worked to change the parts of the world that our lives touched, every day, by living out God’s life-changing grace?