I woke up this morning with a heavy heart. I wasn’t sure why I felt this way. Perhaps it was triggered by our yearly June gloom. Maybe it was because I slept an hour or two less than usual. Or maybe it’s because I’m still pulling out the emotional shrapnel out of my heart reflecting on the tragedy of this weekend’s massacre at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
My heart grieves every time horrific events like this occur. And, especially as a pastor and a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit in me cries out whenever lives are lost at such great magnitudes. And when the Spirit in me mourns with such gravity, I’m automatically moved toward empathy. As much as I possibly can, I feel the pain that families go through as they deal with their loss. I believe the Holy Spirit allows for believers to feel this way so that their compassion can grow and their love for another human being can flourish, no matter what that other person’s belief is.
But, as I was on my daily morning prayer walk, I realized the reason for the heaviness in my soul. I stumbled across a news article about a Sacramento pastor who preached a very hateful sermon in light of the tragedies in South Beach.
Pastor Robert Jimenez said, “There’s no tragedy. I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a wall, put a firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out.”
The “them” that the pastor is referring to isn’t extremists. He isn’t referring to religiously radical fanatics. He’s not even referring to the gunman himself.
The “them” that Jimenez is referring to is the LGBT community.
He goes on to say, “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die,” and references that the Scriptures teach Christians to hate the enemies of God.
And, as I continued strolling through my neighborhood and seeking God about what I was feeling, the Holy Spirit whispered, in response to the pastor’s remarks, “He is misguided and misdirected.”
Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:43-45).”
Now, I’m not saying that I have all the answers and that I’m the most theologically schooled person. But I do know that, in our efforts as Christians to understand Scripture and feel a sense of connectedness to God, it’s easy to have a tendency to polarize ourselves from the rest of “them.” We create divides elevating ourselves higher than everyone else. We sometimes even justify our hateful attitudes in the name of “getting God right.” And, similar to the Pharisees and the religious elite of Jesus’ day, we create hoops that people have to jump through in order to get into the Kingdom.
I was once told by another pastor that Christians should be known for the things that we are against and that we should continue to take a stand for the things that are an abomination to God.
But what about the things we’re actually for?
Jesus once stripped down the Ten Commandments and simply said the Greatest Commandment is to love God with everything you got. And then went on to say that we’re to also love one another as we love ourselves.
Jesus took the “shall nots” and turned them into simple indicators of what we’re to be known for. We’re to be known for our love for one another and our love for God.
Hateful remarks like that of Pastor Jimenez are, indeed, misguided and misdirected. It’s unfortunate that folks who wear the name of Christ will live in such a way that’s polar opposite of the life in which Jesus fought so hard to exemplify and even died for.
My prayer, this morning, was that all of God’s people would come to a place of love. My prayer is that we would mourn with those who mourn. My prayer is that we would cry with those who cry. My prayer is that we would love like Jesus did and like He does today.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8