Gays, Muslims, Christians, and Orlando
Not all Muslims are bad
This past week, America celebrated the life of a deceased American hero. Muhammad Ali (aka Cassius Clay) revolutionized sports with his highly competitive nature, superior athletic ability, and a limerick as skillfully delivered as his left hook. Many people consider him a coward for having refused to fight in Vietnam, but others knew him for who he was outside of the ring and of the public eye. He was a hard-working, soft-spoken, compassionate man. He wasn't always perfect, but shame on you if you think you are. Muhammad Ali was a Sunni Muslim and a peace loving man.
I have friends that are Muslims. They are wonderful people. I rarely have met a Muslim who was not respectful, kind, and helpful. Last week, I took a challenge one of my friends issued me to fast with him for a week at the beginning of Ramadan. I made it two days and had to throw in the towel. After this shooting occurred, without thinking about what had happened, I approached one of my other Muslim friends to talk to him about the challenge I had just failed. He further informed me that there were more rules to Ramadan aside from not eating food during daylight hours, but that you were not even supposed to get angry with another person as you carry about your day. I care for my friends. I respect them and I know that it goes without saying that they are not comfortable with what happened this weekend in Orlando.
I am a born again conservative evangelical Christian. I believe that my faith in Jesus Christ is the only legitimate belief that there is in the world in terms of the supernatural. I believe that Muslims believe incorrectly and that gays live a sinful lifestyle. With all of that being said, I have learned from Jesus that you do not win hearts through intimidation, mockery, or violence. You win hearts through loving relationships where you endure wrong attitudes and beliefs with patience. As a Christian, I am taught that we need to become all things to all people so that we might win some.
I recently heard a preacher commenting on the massacre that happened over the weekend. It was actually more of a declaration, but it deeply troubled me. He cited two passages, Leviticus 20 and Romans 1. He declared that Leviticus 20 states that homosexuals should be stoned to death. According to the Old Covenant of God, this is true. He then stated that Romans 1 also says that homosexuals should be killed and that he is not afraid to go to jail for his faith. Faith, really? You call that faith? That you are willing to kill people for the sake of your convoluted interpretation of Romans 1? If you can't even rightly divide the Word of God and understand its clear meaning, not only do I question your faith, but what in the name of the Lord are you doing preaching at one of the Lord's churches?
Yes, Romans 1 includes homosexuality within a list of sins of which it states in verse 32 that those who do such things are deserving of death. BUT this is clearly stating that all people who commit sin of any sort are aware that sin is deserving of death. In Romans 3:23, the Bible states that all people have sinned and fall short of God's glory (think of glory in terms of his righteous way of life). Furthermore, Romans 6:23 states that the punishment for sin, any sin, is death. This is the bad news that precedes the good news of Jesus Christ. All people deserve to die and be separated from God, but God in his mercy sent Jesus, his Son, to die for our sins so that through faith we would not have to endure the penalty for our sins.
Christianity is not about condemning people's sins. It is about declaring forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ and turning away from your sins in order to follow the example Jesus has set for us. It truly has nothing to do with Christians being condemning or acting like they are better than anyone. We are but sinners saved by grace that wish to extend the freedom through faith in Jesus to everyone.
The LGBT community has suffered greatly in this tragedy. I don't know what it would be like to be at a public gathering only to have your fun interrupted by a maniac wielding two weapons. The horror had to have been tremendous. I have not heard the latest count on the number who were killed in this incident, but I know that it was at least 50 who lost their lives.
I want the LGBT community to know that there are people here that will pray for them and support them in whatever ways they can. I don't know what the general Muslim response was to the attack, but I am already aware that Chick-fil-a, a Christian owned business, immediately took action to provide relief for those who had suffered from this tragedy. Franklin Graham mentioned that one of his friends is a surgeon at a hospital that was seeing many of these victims. All the while, people are blaming the religious community for this incident whether it be in deed or in spirit.
The Good Samaritan
A parable that Jesus told comes to my mind right now. It is called The Good Samaritan. Many people in our culture misinterpret this story and miss its point because of the cultural context in which Jesus told it.
Jews hated Samaritans and Samaritans hated Jews. It was unthinkable that a Samaritan would have been considered good for any reason. In this story, a man is mugged while on his way to a city. He was on foot and in the middle of nowhere, thus he was left to die. One of his fellow countrymen passed by and saw him. He left him in the ditch to die. A priest of his people passed by and saw him and left him to die. But along came a Samaritan, a filthy no good Samaritan, who saw the man and had compassion.
The Samaritan tended to his wounds and transported him to an inn and paid for all of the care that he would need while staying there. The Jew recovered, but the Samaritan left before he could thank him.
Do you know the point Jesus was making when he told this story? It was a response to a Pharisee who had asked what the greatest command of God was. The answer was to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. To this, the Pharisee then asked, and who is my neighbor? Whether you are a believer or not, let me ask, "Who is your neighbor?"
Muslims, Christians, and the LGBT community are not necessarily the best of kin. And yet, it is a shame that we fail to treat one another the way Jesus commanded us. Treat others the way you want to be treated. We can blame everyone who has no affiliation with the incident. We can blame Christians, for creating an environment of hatred. We can blame Muslims for beliefs and teachings that condone such violence. We can blame the LGBT community for their defiance against God. The reality is that one man committed this atrocity and he stands before God Almighty in judgment.
Our response should be to serve one another as we have need. Do we hate one another or do we obey the teachings of Jesus? I'm not naive. I know that certain people will not embrace a message of love. I'm not saying that we consider everyone to be the same or that their beliefs hold equal value as ours. All I am asking is that we respect everyone's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is a theme that we can all embrace and it is only possible if we behave as neighbors to one another.