Our hearts break in compassionate sadness with the awful news from Orlando. May God tenderly embrace those who have suffered horrific loss. We hold all these innocents in heart and mind – those who perished, those who loved them, the first responders, the police and emergency personnel, and the whole city network of care. God bless Orlando.
What are we to think or do? We fall back on our foundational commitments to love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves. What does it mean to love in this way? In part, it means we must not shrink from recognizing that in some quarters hate abounds within our culture. Hate is a product of self-loathing, targeting others deemed “less than” oneself—in this case, LGBTQ persons. But how quickly new targets are found! Such as all Muslims… Hate breeds hate.
We stand against that. We stand where Jesus stands, “Blessed are those who mourn… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… Blessed are the peacemakers…” Are you looking for a prayer? After remembering the dead and those who love them, this short phrase might suffice for the moment: “Holy God, help me to stand where Jesus stands.”
The phrase “self-radicalized” has popped up repeatedly in describing the perpetrator. Evidently, his hate was nursed through digital hate. This will keep us occupied for a long while, but one thing stands out for me in this moment. This event likely would not have happened but for the disembodied hate he found in bits and bytes, disconnected from loving flesh and blood community.
Flesh and blood community is where the real action in loving our neighbor takes place. Sure, it can be fortified by technological proficiencies—our own bits and bytes in service of love, justice, and mercy—but at the end of the day, gritty love gets worked out in the manner of all those who responded to the tragic event in real time. Standing with Jesus situates us as real-time defenders of the targets of hate, while also striving to love the haters since we know that deadly virus resides within our own hearts—and we are instructed to love ourselves as well!
I remain so very grateful that I am part of a flesh and blood community committed to learning how to love well in real time. That’s why we do what we do, why we commit our lives and our fortunes to this mission to love, why we risk our reputations in the name and cause of love. And you can see this is no small intervention, rather it is the precise antidote to our season of fear.
Reread the portion of scripture known as The Beatitudes from Matthew 5 and the following message known as The Sermon on the Mount. Since that’s what it means to stand with Jesus, let’s strive to do that together, hand in hand, confident that God will have the day at last!
Rev. Dr. Stephen Bauman