I was not aware that something bad had happened in Orlando until church service on Sunday morning. As I began to hear more and more of the details, and then as I began to see Facebook posts about it, certain themes became apparent.
It seems popular by some to somehow blame Christians for this tragedy. Some folks seem to think that Christians delight in this tragedy. I have even heard us being accused of thinking this is God’s judgment. No. No. No. This was an act of evil perpetrated by a man motivated by hatred for PEOPLE.
God hates sin, but he LOVES sinners. I know that it seems trite to say we should hate the sin but love the sinner…..I know that seems an empty phrase to some folks. What does that look like? In order to love you and accept you as a person of worth and dignity, must I agree with ALL your lifestyle choices? Let me turn that around: do you only love me if you agree with all MY lifestyle choices? I really hope not. I hope you will love me even though I am a sinner.
Sinners always need Jesus. I NEED JESUS.
The apostle Paul writes in the first letter to Timothy that Jesus came to save sinners…and then Paul does something amazing. He says that HE is the CHIEF sinner. Paul, the greatest missionary the world has every known, identified himself as the greatest sinner. True Christians know something that maybe we don’t communicate all that well. WE are great sinners. Just like you. The difference between you and us is that we recognize that we NEED a savior, and that Jesus IS that savior. We are not trying to earn our way into heaven or depending on good karma or trying to balance the scales in our favor by doing good works. We are depending on the grace of God who sent His only Son to take our punishment on him. We deserved hell and damnation, and He gave us mercy and grace.
So why does all that matter? It matters for a few reasons. First of all, as a believer in Jesus, I know that all people–no matter what their sin appetites, color of their skin, or religious beliefs–ALL PEOPLE are created in the image of our Sovereign God. That is why murder is wrong. What happened in Orlando is not tragic because the targets were in a gay club; it is tragic because they were PEOPLE.
Second, it matters because so much negative attention is given to a few folks who do not represent true Christianity, but who act is if they do. These false prophets want you to believe that one particular brand of sin is a) worse than any other, b) not redeemable, and c) deserving of more hellfire than any other. All sin separates us from God. As Paul realized, the closer we walk with the Lord, the more our sin natures are revealed to ourselves. My sin is not “better” than your sin. My temptations are not more holy than your temptations. If you are tempted to a homosexual lifestyle, that is not sin. Living that lifestyle IS sin. Is that sin any worse than a heterosexual couple having sex outside of marriage? No. God calls a lot of things an abomination–and if you believe that homosexual actions are the only things, you are dead wrong. Look at Proverbs 6:17-19 or I Corinthians 6: 9-11. And yes, there are many verses that also speak about homosexual behavior. Here is the point: we are all guilty of breaking God’s law, and we are all guilty of doing things God calls abomination. (Have you told a lie recently?) The ONLY way to escape the wrath we deserve is to call on Jesus and accept that He stood in our place. God doesn’t hate you because you are gay. He loves you and wants you to come to Him. And yes, He may just change you….as He does all of us who are His. We are called to repent and to trust Him for the change of heart. Your sin is no worse than my sin. You are loved, just as I am.
And third, this all matters because the vast majority of us who call Jesus SAVIOR do not hate you. We HATE what has happened to you and your loved ones in Orlando. We HATE how the conversation has become so jilted. Please understand that the man who did this hated you, and he hated us because, according to his religion, we are infidels. Yes, it was your community who suffered this time, but Islamic extremists want us all dead. That is our common enemy.
Please understand that when I do not celebrate your sin, it does not mean I hate you.I love you…you are my friends, my neighbors, my family. Because I love you, I will speak the truth, but I sincerely hope I never use it as weapon to bash over your head. I want you to know the freedom of knowing Jesus. I want you to have the joy of complete acceptance. I want you to live long enough to have that option.