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Orlando and Silence

Dear Christians,

I’m getting a little frustrated over here. Okay, that’s putting it lightly. I’m getting really frustrated.

I learned from a very young age that “they’ll know we are Christians by our love,” but it seems like the modern Christian is known by a lot of things before their love. Judgmental Facebook statuses. Proof texting during arguments. Not listening to people with whom they disagree. A holier-than-thou approach to evangelism. An attachment to the Republican party.

None of those things were things that Jesus was known for. And that’s not just because Facebook and the Republican party weren’t around back then. It’s because he was known for his radical love of everyone, and that trumped anything else. That’s because Jesus is God, and God is love.

Did Jesus fail to be “tough on sin?” Well, the religious leaders of the day certainly thought he was, judging him for eating with sinners and defending women caught in adultery. Think about that story of the woman caught in adultery for a second. The religious leaders wanted to trap Jesus, wanted him to respond in such a way that they could use it against him. It wasn’t even about the woman or the sin for them; it was about getting rid of Jesus, this carpenter-turned-wandering-rabbi who frustrated the crap out of them because he acted differently than they wanted a him to act and had people following him. They didn’t truly care about the woman or sin. They cared about their own ambitions and motives.

Jesus cared about the woman. He didn’t stand and lecture her about what she’d done wrong. He took the opportunity to point out the failure and sin of the religious leaders. “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They all walked away because being confronted with your own sin is uncomfortable and because they knew that they had sinned too, albeit in different ways than the woman in front of them. Jesus didn’t condone the woman’s actions. He gave her the gift of grace. 

To some people, those who really want to see “sinners get their dues,” that might seem like condoning something. Grace is repulsive to those who are overcome with hate. The lack of condemnation is infuriating to them, it’s sickening. They want a show. They want to see someone hurt, to see them face rejection and be reviled. They want judgment! And if God won’t hand it out, sometimes they decide to do it instead.

Dear friends, please make sure you’re not one of these people.

If we watch Jesus, the God-man that we are supposed to look like, to represent in this broken and hurting world, he always leads with grace. The only times he deals particularly harshly with someone, it’s with the religious leaders, the people who thought they had it all figured out. The ones who wanted a show. The ones who wanted to demonstrate how holy they were while they pointed out how sinful everyone else was. Jesus led with grace, and lives were transformed because of it. People left their homes, their jobs, their money, their security to follow him. People turned from wicked ways and became authors of biblical books and the men and women we read about in Scripture.

Jesus didn’t build walls; he quietly knocked them down. His grace, his love, was like a wrecking ball, crashing into the carefully constructed religious divisions and requirements. He didn’t ask much. “Follow me.” So simple. And yet it changed the world forever.

I’m not going to share any political views here. I’m just going to share my experience.

I texted one of my gay friends the day after the Orlando shooting. I’d been thinking of them a lot the day before, but felt at a loss for what to say. It was a Facebook post from Jen Hatmaker, shared by a friend of mine, that drove me to action. Please take a moment to read it: you should be able to view it here.

As I talked with my friend, they shared something that broke my heart. My friend is not publicly out, and so most of their friends and family don’t know that they’re gay. I had thought that would mean that my friend would see many judgmental and hateful statuses posted by friends and loved ones who didn’t know someone near to them would see and be hurt by it. I’m sure this has happened countless times before, but it wasn’t happening with the Orlando shooting. Here’s what my friend wrote:

It’s really strange watching social media actually. I feel like no one is really talking about it – like other things have happened and my timeline blows up with it – but I’ve seen maybe like 10 posts about it.

Friends, your silence is deafening.

Maybe you didn’t know what to say. Maybe it wasn’t out of spite or judgment that you remained silent. Maybe you were worried that someone else would take your words the wrong way, read into it something you didn’t mean to say. Maybe that’s why you remained silent. But if you’re one of those people who changed your profile pic for France and posts about current events all the time, rest assured that someone who needed to see your words calling out the evil done in Orlando heard your silence more loudly than the words of so many others.

Do changed profile pictures or shared statuses really change anything? No, not in a real tangible way. But they do let people know where you stand. And sometimes people who are hurting just need to know that they’re not alone, that you’re standing with them. Silence can sound the same as judgment in those moments.

Regardless of what any of us think about gay marriage or homosexuality, all Christians should be able to condemn murder. Actually, God help you if you’re only able to condemn murder. Life should be so valuable to you that your immediate reaction should be condemnation and revulsion. You shouldn’t have to think if it melds well with your political views or if someone will question you for it. When people die, you should mourn. Period. It does not matter who they were. They were people, image bearers of God. In all your approaches to them, you should have always erred on the side of love and grace, but you should look especially like Jesus when tragedy strikes.

I love my friend with all my heart, and I made sure that they knew that the day after the Orlando shooting. That’s all that mattered at that moment in time. I have been called to look like Jesus, and so I will lead with grace and love and I will refrain from condemnation.

I am not silent about my faith. I just choose a simple message rather than arguments and worrying about being right. “Follow him,” is all I need to say, echoing the call from so long ago that hasn’t stopped resounding since the days when Jesus walked the earth. “Follow him,” I say, pointing to the one who didn’t condemn me and who has called me to a life full of love and peace. “Follow him,” I say, knowing that it’s not up to me to outline for anyone what that looks like. If they’re following him, he’ll show them the way. “Follow him.”

I am not following him if I interact with someone, and they go away without feeling his love. That goes for people who are in my way at the grocery store. That goes for people who bother me when I’d rather be left alone. That goes for family members I don’t get along with. That goes for the people I am closest to. That goes for Democrats and Republicans. That goes for people who have lived in America all their lives and for people who have just moved here. That goes for straight people and for gay people.

Do the loving, friends. Leave the handling of sin to God. You’re not equipped to do it anyway, and the loving is so much more beautiful.

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