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When Hate Has a Name: Responding to the Orlando Tragedy

“…just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin,
and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12)

I woke up yesterday morning with notifications from every news outlet suggesting that something horrific had happened over night. This isn’t that uncommon. A constant flood of bad news. Earthquakes in Japan. Tsunami warnings in Indonesia. Market bombings in Tel Aviv.

But this one was different. Through the fog of sleep did I really see Orlando? Certainly not. That is too close to home. But as the facts unfolded through the morning, and more urgent notifications bombarded my home screen, it seemed surreal. 20. Then, 50. And we await the fate of another 53. First, hate. Then, terrorism. Then, ISIS.

I’m not sure what it says that I am no longer surprised.

I find it cheap how quickly we turn the story into a blame game. The victims were people. Created in the image of God. Their lives were stolen. And the thief keeps coming over and over and over again. Surely this has to end.

For just a moment, let’s lay it all on the table. I do not know how this all ends; neither do you. I know who wins, but not how it ends. And honestly, I am getting to a place in my own life where I can barely stand to watch the news. First, it’s filtered. Whatever your political views, your side’s talking heads slant reality so dramatically that it is more accurate to call the presentation a tabloid rather than actual news. Second, the news that does leak through is not good or redemptive in any sense: financial meltdowns, corporate bankruptcies, nuclear missile tests, children starving in Africa – and that was all just this week.

But should we be surprised?

Let’s face it, we can all agree that our world is broken, and it has been for a very long time. You all know how the story begins, In beginning God created the Heavens and the earth…and it was good.

Yet this all shifted very quickly.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’” (Genesis 3:1-4)

They ate. And everything began to die.

Sin entered the world through the one man, Adam, and, as a result of the broken creation, everything we see is in a constant state of missing the mark. Our world suffers from the afflictions of sin. All of humanity suffers from the same plights: aging, disease, fragile bodies. And because the world itself is broken, we suffer under its afflictions as well – tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis – natural disasters. And, well, hate. Hate of the other. Hate of our brother.

There is certainly a place to talk about appropriate political and social responses. But that’s not for today. It is just too soon.

Today my attention has continually been drawn to the words of Jeremiah 8:22, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?” This particular balm was first brought into Judea by the queen of Sheba during the time of Solomon. It was a resin that flourished in Gilead, just east of Jordan. For this reason, many physicians established themselves in this land. Jeremiah, while predicting the brokenness the Babylonians would bring to the people of the Southern Kingdom of Israel, longed for the people to find healing.

The people of our country long for healing. And, those who call Jesus “King” must bring hope and healing to this situation. Here are some suggestions:

1. Love your enemies. I mean, radically, aggressively, boldly love your enemies.

It seems cheap to say love those who seek to kill you – particularly in this moment – but Jesus demanded nothing less. It is his affection for those who nailed him to a cross that compels us to love those who seek to nail us to crosses. No one says this better than Bonhoeffer, who, while being pursued by the Nazis, reminded us how to love our enemies in radical ways.

“Words and thoughts are not enough. Doing good involves all the things of daily life. ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink’ (Romans 12:20). In the same ways that brothers and sisters stand by each other in times of need, bind up each other’s wounds, ease each other’s pain, love of the enemy should do good to the enemy. Where in the world is there greater need, where are deeper wounds and pain than those of our enemies? Where is doing good more necessary and more blessed than for our enemies?”

Love those who seek to destroy you. Love those who seek to steal your life. Love those who hate you – even when he has a name.

2. Slow down.

It’s sad that it takes such loss and tragedy to force us to slow down. And in these moments of slowing down we can focus on praying for our enemies. Where else might you turn? Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Billy Graham spoke these words at the National Cathedral, “My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and that as we trust in Him we will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us.” Pray. And then pray some more. We need to protect our hearts from callousness and despair, from quick judgments and social media rants. Take heart, Psalm 46:10 remains as true today as it did Saturday night: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

3. Weep with those who weep.

Don’t try to explain it. Don’t try to justify anyone’s response. Instead, grieve. We all want to be able to explain away tragedy. Explain its motives and hide it in the corner as a unique occurrence. That is a futile effort. It’s okay to admit we don’t really have a response, the proper reaction, or certainly not the solution. Instead, what we have is shared humanity. Share experience of loss and speechlessness. Be assured, this isn’t how the story ends.

4. While we weep, turn your heart to hope.

We do not grieve as those who have no hope. In the midst of our pain, anger, and confusion, we also know Jesus will make all things right!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’  And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ (Revelation 21:1-5)

Christians have a responsibility to share the hope of Jesus with the world. In times like this, when a hurting and confused world is seeking answers to a cosmic problem, we have the hope that can balm those wounds. CS Lewis reminds us all of the centrality of hope to the Christian story:

Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.

Although all that we currently experience is tainted by the brokenness of creation, that wasn’t God’s original plan, and God always finishes his plans. Christians stand in contrast to the hurt this current world has to offer and we sing a new song. A song of hope. A song that starts by admitting that “…just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, 

and so death spread to all men because all sinned,” but ends with the hopeful, glorious promise that “the last Adam [Jesus] became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45)

Come, Lord Jesus, Amen!

Chris Lawson

Founder of MyBigJesus.com, husband to Merri, father to Adam, Ellie, and Zachary, and executive pastor @reynoldachurch. Lives to make Jesus famous. He enjoys watching the Atlanta Braves and UNC basketball, as well as demeaning and insulting whatever sports teams you root for. He knows a disturbing amount about television and movies.

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22 Comments

    Whitney Hsu

    13th Jun 2016 - 7:54 am

    I needed this.

    Adam wolo

    13th Jun 2016 - 11:01 am

    Well written. Thx rev.

    Connie Bowen

    13th Jun 2016 - 11:38 am

    Thank you Chris.May I share this message?

      MyBigJesus

      13th Jun 2016 - 11:47 am

      Please do!

    Felice Avery

    13th Jun 2016 - 12:37 pm

    Thank you Chris. Too often the “church” is either silent or avoids discussing in depth these types of horrific issues. And yet, it is the world we are living in. We are bombarded by the media and easily lose sight of where our focus should be as Christians.

    Hollie Gomez

    13th Jun 2016 - 1:11 pm

    Yes and Amen.

    jacque Gellman

    13th Jun 2016 - 1:26 pm

    Indeed, amen and amen. Thank you Chris.

    jacque Gellman

    13th Jun 2016 - 1:26 pm

    Indeed, amen and amen. Thank you Chris.

    Robert Hall

    13th Jun 2016 - 1:27 pm

    Great message !

    Patti

    13th Jun 2016 - 1:29 pm

    I didn’t even know it, but I needed this. This is a wonderful message not only for today, but for every day — especially when we are experiencing our broken world breaking into our personal life. Thanks, Chris.

    James Baldwin

    13th Jun 2016 - 1:37 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to share your insights into this tragic act of violance. Like you I was not surprised which is a sign of accepting this as a norm. When in fact there is nothing normal about it. God has a plan and I will trust in Him and have faith that everything is by His design and it will all be known in His time.

    Linda Umstead

    13th Jun 2016 - 1:45 pm

    I praise God that after reading your blog, Chris, I feel comforted! I feel hopeful for the better world to which we look and for which we long. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus. Linda Umstead

    Jeff Davis

    13th Jun 2016 - 1:51 pm

    Thanks Chris. Well thought out and written. Thanks to Alan for pointing me to your blog. Miss you guys and may God continue to use you and our church family at Reynolda. -Jeff & Kate

    Shannon

    13th Jun 2016 - 2:02 pm

    Well said. Thank you for sharing this.

    Jessie

    13th Jun 2016 - 2:25 pm

    A real comfort, Chris. Thank you for sharing.

    Wilma

    13th Jun 2016 - 3:53 pm

    Thanks, Chris, for your words of wisdom. We need to be reminded that Jesus is on His throne, and He is for us, not against.

    Maggi McCutchen

    13th Jun 2016 - 4:00 pm

    I could hardly breathe when I heard this. I cried out to God immediately. Your words are spot on. Thank you. I just want to go and worship and pray with my Church family! God help us all. He is our refuge and strength!

    Leah

    13th Jun 2016 - 9:08 pm

    Thank you brother!!

    Jane Stoltz

    13th Jun 2016 - 10:25 pm

    Thank you so much Pastor Chris! We all need reminding of what us Christians are supposed to do in these tragic times. God bless you!

    Barbara Jackson

    14th Jun 2016 - 4:22 am

    Thank you pastor Chris for sharing your thoughts on this difficult subject matter. I know we will be facing more persecution as Christians in the days ahead and I’m struggling with the command from Jesus to love our enemy if I am, or a family member happens to be looking down the barrel of a gun. I’m not that much like Jesus yet unfortunately! I continue to pray for help from God with this issue and strength to face what may be at our doorstep! He is my blessed hope and I look forward to being with him one day when our struggles on this earth come to an end. Marantha!

    David Olive

    14th Jun 2016 - 4:44 pm

    Well said, my friend!

    Ian Boyles

    14th Jun 2016 - 6:59 pm

    I found out about this through social media on Saturday night and I had to question whether this was even real. When I eventually discovered that it was indeed true, it hit me like a blow to the stomach. This has definitely been stressing me out a lot recently, its truly a horrible, horrible tragedy, but your words gave me hope, as they always do…thank you Chris.

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