I’ve been trying not to write this.
I’ve been trying not to write about Orlando, about Dallas, about Minneapolis or any of the growing list of other places where our attention has focused these past few days and weeks. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I don’t care about each of these events and those affected by them, far from it. I am deeply troubled by each and everyone. My hesitation is from a concern that I didn’t have anything new or different to say and that I didn’t want to step forward just be writing for the sake of putting words to print……
I’ve come to the realization that doing just that – stepping forward – is exactly what I, what each of us, needs to be doing. Each of us must begin the conversation with the world around us. We must acknowledge that each of these tragic deaths is a loved one, a partner or spouse, brother or sister, father or mother, an earthly child of earthly parents and an eternal child of God. We must grieve the loss of a precious life. We do not need to add commentary or personal opinions. We must simply grieve.
Silence is no longer tolerable. Holding our words in smug self separation is not an option anymore. We are called to be a voice, a witness, a light in the darkness.
14 And you, beloved, are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. 15 Similarly it would be silly to light a lamp and then hide it under a bowl. When someone lights a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the light illumines the entire house. 16 You are like that illuminating light. Let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it. – Matthew 5:14-16 (The VOICE)
Our friends and neighbors are hurting today. Hurting from a variety of reasons that honestly some of us cannot relate to or pretend to know first hand. That lack of direct reference should not stop us from doing what we are called to do – simply love others and shine the light of or heavenly father on all we come in contact with.
We as a church and as Christians, particularly evangelical identifying Christians, need to stop with the labels and the categories of our fellow brothers and sisters. Whenever we use words like “but” or “however” in connection with our description of someone we immediately negate and devalue anything we may have said or will say about them. Our neighbors are not projects for us to heal or redeem, that’s God’s job. Our job is to love unconditionally, to cry when they cry, to mourn when they mourn, to laugh when they laugh, to simply be in community with them.
We must as the body of Christ must stop with the qualifying of people based on race, gender, orientation, economics, vocation or any other label or definition that we might place on or around them. How about we simply start calling others and ourselves what we really are: children of God.
I don’t care if you are black or white or any of the other nearly 24,000 people groups in the world today. I don’t care your gender or your individual sexual identity. I don’t care your job or paycheck size. If I have been called to be the living breathing hands and feet of Christ during my time on earth any and all of those labels do not matter because my call is to love you.
That’s really it – to love you.
We are commanded time and time again in the Bible to “love our neighbor”.
Nowhere in scripture does it qualify who that neighbor is or what category of neighbor are worthy of love. It also interestingly doesn’t tell us to “love the sinner and hate the sin”…… If that’s our yardstick than we all have missed the lesson John 8 teaches us. This mandate is not about sin so can we please stop trying to make that the focus of our excuses. We don’t have to understand or agree with someone to see them as God see’s them, without labels, without stigma, and without qualifications on their ability to receive grace, mercy, and love. The same grace, mercy and love that has poured out on and over us.
“In the polarization of these days, it time for the Christian Church to show something different, and it is time for this church to lead the way in modeling that unity and common life and greater accomplishment can be found in the common ground we share in Christ”. – Gary Walter, President of the Evangelical Covenant Church speaking at the 131st ECC Annual Meeting on June 24th, 2016
When events like the past few weeks happen we are called to respond. Pray most certainly yet we cannot stop at prayer, particularly a half-hearted or misguided prayer. We must be called into action to shine our light of love so far and so wide and so deep that the darkness surrounding others has no place to hide. For once can we as the church forget about the stigma of who we are loving on and just be present in the moment with the real and genuine gift of our undivided presence? Did Jesus worry about what others would think when he loved on beggars, lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors? Was Jesus particularly worried about what others might think or even what others might call the defeated, downtrodden and outcasts that he made a point to encounter?
If labels didn’t matter to the ministry of our Savior then they shouldn’t matter to me.
We need to do something.
We need to love.
I need to do something.
I need to love.