Awakening to the news of last Sunday’s terrorist attack in Orlando, I felt awash with grief, alarm, and dread: Grief for the lives that were cut short, alarm that ISIS had struck again within our borders, and dread for the divisiveness that religious-political narratives would almost certainly generate on social media and the airwaves. But I determined to withhold my thoughts until my head was clear enough to hear from God’s broken heart.
There were two very different responses from the so-called evangelical community. (I say “so-called” because the word “evangelical” connotes one with a message of “good news”, and not all evangelicals actually proclaim good news). One small minority jumped into poisonous judgments towards those who have lost their way in darkness. They impugned the name of Jesus by the hateful and callous statements they made in his name.
But a totally opposite response came from the Orlando Chik fil-A restaurants who fired up their kitchens on Sunday afternoon to feed the lines of people waiting to give blood for the victims.
Religion and the Kingdom almost always end up in conflict. You can see this in full display in the gospel of Luke, when a group of Samaritans, (a people already condemned for their pagan beliefs and practices), reject Jesus himself as he entered their village. The (religious) disciples were indignant: “Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them”, they asked? But their very question almost seems to have confused Jesus. “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:55-56).
Did you catch that? The Son of God himself resisted the way of judgment. And so should we.
The distinguishing mark of a true disciple is not the purity of his doctrine, nor the passion of his judgments, but the fullness of his love. “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” 1 John 4:16-17