It could have been my sister in Orlando that night, shot and killed. It could have been my son’s best friend. My God; it could have been me; in the words of the early church martyr: “There but for the grace of God go I“.
It wasn’t me. It wasn’t you. But it was so many. Not one life. Not five or ten or twenty. Forty-nine lives were taken that day, in a horrific tragedy, by one single, hateful man. Forty-nine. Forty-nine life stories and love stories. Forty-nine sons or daughters or brothers or sisters or friends.
The place they were in might have made it easier to distance ourselves — some of us — from their plight and their tragedy. “A gay nightclub.” I would have never been in such a place. By God’s grace, you might add.
I think it was C. T. Studd who succinctly stated, “Some people want to live within the sound of mission bells, but I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of Hell.”
I was sleeping when the shooting occurred, but how deep was that sleep? How have I been lulled to sleep by church bells rather than stirred to life by the plight of the lost, the hateful and the hated? Someone filled with ideologies of hate and justice and wrath stormed that nightclub to shoot and destroy. Did anyone, I wonder, enter that nightclub in a spirit of love and mercy, to speak truth into the lives of those who had gone astray?
Or maybe not a nightclub. Maybe a classroom. Maybe a living room. Maybe a front porch. Or an abortion clinic. Or a church. The broken, the lost, the misled and the straying are everywhere. Are we looking for them? Are we seeking them out and speaking love and truth and mercy into their lives? Or have we already judged them in our minds? Both victim and perpetrator?
I was grieved at the news of the shooting. I have been more grieved, though, at the reactions of many Christians, those who are using the tragedy to push their own agenda. I have seen Facebook posts decrying current presidents and potential presidents, paragraphs filled with hateful and ugly statements. I have seen more moderate posts about the need to maintain our rights as Americans … and I ask myself, is this what Jesus would be promoting? Was it Jesus who promised rights? Or was it He who promised that those who suffer with Him would also rule with Him? Who promised that the one who carries the cross will bear the crown? Who said we might not have a place to lay our heads at night, but that we will have a home in His presence for eternity?
And we are using a tragedy where scores of human beings — scores of us — were shot and killed or wounded; we are using it to proclaim our rights and secure our position and defend ourselves against those who stand in other positions. Are we not called to open our arms and lives and speak truth in mercy and love? Are we not called to lift up the Cross of Christ, not the First or Second or 14th Amendment or the Bill of Rights?
What is our focus? Reaching the lost and searching? Or living a life of comfort and ease?
I have had to search my heart in light of this horrific incident and the varied responses I have seen across social media. I pray that we who are believers in the life-giving power of the risen Christ will all do the same. What are we here for? We who know Christ as Savior? We have assurance of eternal life; why did Christ not carry us home to be with him as soon as we were “saved”?
Because we have a calling. A commission. A commandment. Spread the Gospel of Jesus to all in every country, in every place.
Not spread the message of our rights, whether they are waxing or waning. But to keep our eyes fixed on Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith. And to enable others to also fix their eyes on Him.
May we crash the gates of hell by not fearing to run a mission there, rather than hiding in our houses or churches, promoting rights that were never given us by God. May we promote Him, whom to know is life eternal.