THE THEOLOGICAL ENGINEER
What is the Christian response to the Orlando attack?
By Jeff Laird and Kersley Fitzgerald
We've gotten a lot of questions, understandably, about how Christians can show compassion to the LGBTQ community in light of the Orlando terrorist attack without inferring that we endorse the active LGBTQ lifestyle. The baggage surrounding Christianity and people of the LGBTQ persuasion is stacked so high we can't even see over it. And that baggage comes in two shapes: the culture and the gospel.
In our culture, both secular and religious, members of the LGBTQ community have been harassed, reviled, persecuted, and even killed for a long time. They've even been blamed for hurricanes. And this is not the first time they've been attacked in a nightclub. Because of an inferred "ickiness" factor, many Christians have felt free to publically revile members of the LGBTQ community — and then we justify this (sinful) action with Scripture. Conveniently disregarding Matthew 7:3-5. (For more, see GotQuestions writer Sarah's excellent post "My Quiet Naughty".)
And because of that cultural history, they may not want our help. Note where the attack took place — in a gay bar. One of the few places of community where they may have felt safe to express their personalities. And we come in, Christians who have historically been categorically not safe. Any help we have to give must be offered in humility and with true repentance for whatever attitudes we personally have held or actions we personally have been a part of. And extreme patience as we acknowledge that other "Christians" have done far worse in our name while we stood mostly silent.
On the other side is responding to a great tragedy when the greatest medicine is the gospel — the gospel that first teaches we all sin. How do we respond to physical needs without addressing spiritual needs? How do we address spiritual needs to a group that has long been culturally identified by a lifestyle of sin* instead of as fellow Imago Dei? When sin in general needs to be acknowledge in order to address that spiritual need?
We need to be compassionate, even as we share the gospel. There are places and times to speak about sin, but it's usually not when we should be healing their wounds. It is possible for us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Good Samaritan, and to simply help without expectations. This is what opens the doors for the gospel.
So, yes, there are some morally and spiritually awful things which happen in the LGBTQ community. And, yes, we need to share the gospel. At the same time, our marching orders from God are not to heal the wounded — while-being-sure-to-tell-them-how-bad-their-sin-is. Preaching the gospel does not require us to hammer on any particular group as more sinful than the others. This is especially important because the attacks in Orlando seem to have been motivated by hatred for homosexuals. Christ and the Apostles were diplomatic and tactful, even as they held to truth and morality.
We need to do the same. We don't need to withhold the gospel, but we can't make our response to a tragedy like the shooting one that focuses on how sinful homosexuality is. The people who are hurting are just that — people — and we need to show them Christ-like love.
In other words, this needs to be a both/and, not an either/or situation. We need to show love, compassion, and healing and promote the truth of the gospel in a loving and careful way. We don't have to choose between truth and love. Simply showing compassion and protection for hurting human beings is how we open hearts to the truth of the gospel. If we extend a helping hand, but the other hand has pointed fingers, we're just muddling the message of Christ.
How we might respond to a fire, or some other disaster, really isn't too different. And, the fact is, this was not a fire. The context was a hate-filled attack based on the behavior of those in that club. We need to be wise, as God called us to be (Matthew 10:16), and recognize that this is a chance to show the difference between hate which kills, and love which heals.
Showing love makes the other person's heart more receptive to the gospel, and will provide opportunities to discuss their sin. But when they're bleeding on the floor (metaphorically or literally), it's not the time to focus on their sin. It's our time to break out the bandages.
* Identified and defined by a sin — in some cases a reaction to a brain malfunction — not even a theological position that rejects God and Christ. We treat people of non-Christian faiths, who denounce Jesus and blaspheme God, with more kindness and respect.
Image Credit: Sarah Mirk; Vigil for Orlando Pulse Shooting victims; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Controversial-Issues | Current-Issues | Hardships | Ministry-Church | Sin-Evil | Witnessing-Evangelism
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