It’s instructive to evaluate our immediate, automatic, and unspoken response to dramatic news. It tells us a lot about our inner selves.
So tonight I’m thinking about my first response to hearing about yesterday’s mass shooting in Colorado Springs where five people were killed in the Club Q gay nightclub, along with at least 25 others injured – and comparing it to my response when this same thing happened in 2016 at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando.
Back in 2016, my first concern was that the liberals would use this as yet another excuse to enact gun control.
My second concern was that the liberals would use this an excuse to push the homosexual agenda over Christian objections.
My third response, quickly pushed back down into the guilty recesses of my subconscious, was some inner satisfaction that they probably got what they deserved according to Leviticus 20:13.
I deeply regret that it’s now quite clear to me that absolutely nothing Christlike crossed my mind in 2016.
Because I simply cannot imagine Jesus pumping His fist in glee at the fate that they deserved, or fretting about gun rights, or worrying about whether His Kingdom could survive a liberal agenda.
Back then, it never would have entered my mind to think about the impact on those 30 people – and all the other witnesses – carefully crafted in God’s own image, carriers of His Spirit, people likely with loving lifetime partners or spouses, probably even some with children, and certainly all of them with loving parents and grandparents. People who, if they survive, will be scarred for life, both in traumatic psychological responses and in lifetime physical scars and weaknesses. Dead people who leave behind holes in their communities and workplaces and families. An irreplaceable loss to their own little slice of the world. No more chance to mature and grow in grace and love and no more chance to shed the love of God to the world around them. Unharmed bystanders who will never be the same. Millions of other gays hearing about this event who will live in greater fear for their safety, and anguish at how they’re treated by supposed Jesus-followers seeking to wipe them off the earth.
That’s what I now believe Jesus would be thinking.
How sick I was.
My response in no way represented the nature and character and person of Jesus to those around me – especially what I now know included at least one closeted gay person, and a bunch of others who, even as faithful members of my church, vehemently yet silently disagreed with the anti-homosexuality stance of that church. I’m sure my responses to such past events were deeply painful to them – especially on behalf of their gay friends. And as I see things now, I’m sure my responses were also deeply painful to the Lord Jesus, who died for those folks and loves them just as richly and thoroughly and unreservedly as He loves me.
Because now I see that I was toxically self-righteous in my view of those murdered gay people. I justified myself in hatred for them and what I thought they represented. I was more concerned about what I thought of as “my rights” than their rights and lives. I forgot that the very essence of Jesus’ gospel was selflessness and laying down my life on their behalf. I forgot the Imago Dei in each of them, and was convinced that they deserved whatever happened to them – forgetting that my very assumption of that judgement condemned me just as thoroughly as anything they might be guilty of doing in God’s eyes.
And yet at this moment I find Christ’s grace, and I’ve been continually finding His grace this past year.
He saw fit to open my eyes and open my heart, to change my mind, to give me His compassion and love, His incomprehensible acceptance of each and every one of them. He finally let me see them as He does, joining with Him to to welcome them into His Kingdom, to invite them to His table, exactly as they are, loved as they are even before the foundation of the world, just as He loved me and welcomed me and invited me – and continues to love and welcome and invite me – in my own mess and immaturity and unworthiness. It’s only because I’m now worthy by His sacrifice – which just as fully covers and loves every one of those folks in that gay nightclub.
So I’d rather stand with any one of those gay nightclub patrons than with any person or organization who still thinks or acts like I once did.
May I never go back.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there is any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24)