In the wake of the Orlando tragedy, we have heard from many people about what the core problem may be that resulted in so much death and suffering. We probably have our own view of what “the problem” is. The list includes:
- Guns and their ready availability
- Hate groups
- The President
- The Presidential candidates
- Islam in general and ISIS in particular
- Christian conservatives
- Christian progressives
- Atheists and agnostics
- The LGBTQ community
Regardless of who you blame, you’d probably be wrong. As Paul admonished us in Romans 2.
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
Yes, it is true. We all have blood on our hands. We have all, in some way, participated in creating the tragedy that unfolded in Orlando.
Some of us, unfortunately, have been active participants, decrying groups of people for their perceived sinfulness, and even urging action to drive those people away from Jesus. Others of us are guilty of crimes of omission: failing to confront the hateful rhetoric, or simply reflecting it back with hateful words of our own.
John Wesley covered the topic thoroughly in his Sermon 38, A Caution Against Bigotry. Here Wesley used the example of one who was casting out demons, without the sanction of Jesus and his disciples. (Mark 9:38, 39). Jesus told the disciples that anyone who was casting out demons was doing the Lord’s work, and was not “the enemy.”
” if we either directly or indirectly forbid him, “because he followeth not us,” then we are bigots. This is the inference I draw from what has been said. But the term “bigotry,” I fear, as frequently as it is used, is almost as little understood as “enthusiasm.” It is too strong an attachment to, or fondness for, our own party, opinion, church, and religion. Therefore he is a bigot who is so fond of any of these, so strongly attached to them, as to forbid any who casts out devils because he differs from himself in any or all these particulars.”
And in closing his sermon, Wesley offered us this caution:
” I need add but one caution: Think not the bigotry of another is any excuse for your own. It is not impossible, that one who casts out devils himself, may yet forbid you so to do. You may observe, this is the very case mentioned in the text. The Apostles forbade another to do what they did themselves. But beware of retorting. It is not your part to return evil for evil.”
Whatever group you find yourself in, don’t fall to the temptation to blame another group of people for “the problem.” We all share in it. We all need to put aside our own bigotry, whether it is reflected against Muslims, conservatives, progressives, LGBTQ, straights, or politicians. And, as Wesley counsels,
” Am I not sorry that God should thus own and bless a man that holds such erroneous opinions? Do I not discourage him, because he is not of my Church, by disputing with him concerning it, by raising objections, and by perplexing his mind with distant consequences? Do I show no anger, contempt, or unkindness of any sort, either in my words or actions? Do I not mention behind his back, his (real or supposed) faults –his defects or infirmities? Do not I hinder sinners from hearing his word? If you do any of these things, you are a bigot to this day.“