What happened in Orlando on Saturday evening is exactly that – a tragedy.
It is a tragedy that people cannot get along and allow others to live the life they want to live the way they want to live it without causing them harm because of their own feelings about how they feel people should properly conduct themselves. It is a tragedy that people think it is OK to do whatever they want to do however they want to do it, but can’t give the same sentiment in return to other people they disagree with philosophically or theologically.
I will say here openly that I do not think that the homosexual lifestyle is compatible with Christian teaching. I would also add that I personally have been touched/groped/attacked, if you will, on two separate occasions by gay men in my life. Once was while I was a grocery bag boy at a local supermarket in my hometown. The man was older than me. He was a nephew to the owners of the store. He came up behind me and picked me up off the ground in a huge bear hug. Talk about uncomfortable! The other time was while I was a pastor at my very first church. I had a one to one meeting with a youth pastor in the next town. Upon arriving at his apartment I came to realize that the meeting was simply he and I. Within a matter of minutes he grabbed me and wrestled me to the ground. It was all meant to be playful but, nonetheless, uncomfortable. I would be lying if I said it did not warp my view of LGBTQ people. Both incidents were back in the 90’s. The after effects brought on what I describe as that “ultra-conservative” mindset where a person is scared of the wind blowing because, logic suggests, God’s judgment might be the thing that knocks down the tree.
I am happy to state that none of my experiences have ever led me to want to do something as violent as the man in Orlando did over the weekend. And, I doubt that the man involved with the shooting ever had anyone of the homosexual persuasion approach him or do anything to him. (Pure speculation) Even if he had, there is no warrant for such abusive behavior or retaliation. When we cry out about people judging one another, this event is Orlando is the ultimate example of judgment being passed. We do it with words. Instead of showing a person your viewpoint and letting it be, we push our limits by shoving our own personal feelings into the mix. Pointing out God’s view on the matter from the scriptures is one thing. To then inject our own personal feelings about what we think of people who do not follow those teachings usually takes the matter to far. We have to learn how to speak about a subject and then let it lie. Let God’s Spirit be the thing that speaks to a person’s heart. When people don’t accept our words, then incidents like the one in Orlando tend to happen. We make matters personal. As if whether or not a person follows our viewpoint on a subject or not affects our own well being and happiness. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s not about what we think of the other person. It’s about what God thinks of the other person. God loves everybody. He doesn’t approve of people’s behavior, but he still loves them. I have been in the shoes of those who would cast too much judgment and not enough love.
Do we truly understand what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves? Do we truly understand what it means to do unto others as we would have them do unto us? Do we understand how to give one another the freedom to do what they want to do the way they want to do it? How many of us would like the freedom to pursue whatever it is that makes us happy? (Isn’t that a principle our country is founded upon? The pursuit of happiness?) I want love for myself. If someone saw me doing something unholy and called me out on it, how would I respond? I think I would respond based upon how the matter was handled. We see people leaving the homosexual lifestyle everyday and we see people defiantly digging in their heels. I can’t help but wonder what kind of conversations they had leading up to those decisions. I also see people loosening their theological baggage and allowing people to be around them who may not necessarily live the way their own morals say is proper AND I see people tightening their belts in an effort to keep other people away who don’t live the way they think is holy. I also wonder what kinds of conversations they have had that have led to those responses.
Around 2000, I left a holiness denomination because I wanted to see more ecumenical life. The denomination I came from seemed too cemented in the idea that their own viewpoint was the only viewpoint and everyone else had it wrong. I couldn’t live that way anymore. That bottleneck approach to theological thought squelched any play on doing evangelism (in my mind). How are we supposed to reach people if we cut them off? How are we to reach people if we can’t preach to them? My feelings here go way beyond the LGBTQ persuasion. Drug users. Abortion. Divorcees. How are we to make disciples for Christ if we cut people off? It takes bravery to step out into a world where the viewpoint is not what you personally hold. It does require conversation. Maybe uncomfortable conversation. Endless conversation. It requires us to put down our weapons of war. It requires us to forget about what we personally want and focus on something greater than ourselves. It requires us to focus on the truth that this is not our home and to stop acting like we need to possess it and own and control it like it is ours to own.
Lord, in your mercy…