The recent events in Orlando have captivated the headlines and attention of people everywhere, the occurrence speaks loudly with many hearing different messages. The Muslim community issued a statement stating they wouldn’t be defined by extremists, gun control advocates use the situation to push for stricter gun control, politicians are using it to further their campaign, the LGBT community is in fear, grief and outrage while the Christians themselves are divided. We have people who call themselves God fearing Christians, Pastors who take to the pulpit and preach to our children every Sunday stating that they are sorry more didn’t die. We have men and women dying on foreign soil to protect the freedom and liberties of our country, while those in our country fear annihilation for exercising their freedom of choice. It’s beyond my comprehension how so many cannot see what is wrong with America today, we have become an ego driven society that uses disaster and devastation to further personal agendas and causes, to advance beliefs of our own rather than being a society that is accepting of personal differences.
If the act of one ‘broken man’ can send such a massive wave of devastation across the nation, it stands to reason that the action of many could send a greater wave of healing, but where does it begin. It begins with one person deciding to make a change, one person deciding to no longer see separation among God’s people and passing that decision on to another. One person who makes the stand to say, “it’s time for this to end”. It’s time to end this absurd behavior of judging and condemning our fellow man because they choose to believe differently than another, it’s time to accept that we each have the free will to make our own choices. There are too many who cannot “accept” others because they choose to believe differently, they use the bible and religion as their shield of protection stating that “it’s against my religion” or “it’s not Godly”. If I’m not mistaken the bible has many references regarding the fact that JUDGING others is not our right, only God has the right to judge and He will when the time comes. Man’s law can protect those business owners who refuse service to people based on their religious beliefs, but only they can protect themselves from the wrath of God for attempting to take his place in the judges seat. For years gay people were not allowed to marry based on the fact that “God’s word plainly states that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman”. I have yet to find the location in the bible where God appointed one particular person to interpret His word and hold all of His people accountable for upholding it, there are however many verses that advise us to be leaders by example. The book of James gives us practical teachings of how to live a Christian life that reflects genuine faith that transforms lives, the first chapter tells us as believers to test our faith and prove ourselves as doers of the word. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). It’s not enough that we learn God’s word, we must adhere to it and live in faith that as long as we live our lives for God as an example to others and share our knowledge of Him with others that He will stand in judgment of those who choose not to follow Him.
The book of James is also encouragement for us to endure and live bold Christian lives, it describes for us the relationship between faith and works. It teaches us that faith without works is useless faith, if we judge others as right or wrong based on their individual beliefs how then are we demonstrating our faith in God when He very plainly instructs us to love one another as He has loved us. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). We are to accept others as they are without judgment, “accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment on his opinions” (Romans 14:1). “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
We can theorize on his motives, place blame for the massacre on his allegiance to ISIS, his state of mind, his repressed sexual orientation or in any other theory that fits the argument at the moment. What we cannot overlook is the fact that he was a desperate man long before he picked up a gun and made headlines, he was searching for something to fill the void within when he attached himself to ISIS. He was a man searching for something that would “make him somebody”, a man who had been made to feel like ” nobody”. He was a victim of the same judgment he placed on those he murdered, his outward aggression was merely an outward manifestation of the hatred he felt inside. Most likely unable to face the darkness or emptiness within himself he projected them onto ‘safe’ targets, the repression of negative emotions can only be successful for so long before they either have to be faced or one explodes. They may appear outwardly as minor outburst in the beginning, but that’s always a sign that something lurks beneath. When we cannot feel free to express our true selves for fear of rejection, ridicule or judgment we begin to live from a place of fear. Fear is a very powerful negative emotion that causes destruction within, when there is destruction within it must find a way out. Not everyone who lives in fear is going to go out and commit mass murder, some suffer silently destroying their lives and effecting the lives of those around them in the process. It’s easy for us to look over the timeline of his life now and see how the bully became the bullied, his unaddressed emptiness caused behavior that shattered his dream, the warning signs were there long before he found something to believe in. ISIS gave him something he had not been given along the way, something to make him feel complete. He appears to be yet another lost soul who fell through the proverbial cracks, unfortunately taking many with him when he fell.
We as a society contributed to this atrocity when we contributed to breaking this man with our biases, judgments, intolerance’s and hatred. Our involvement is not as readily seen because it is carried out in subtle ways over time, but it’s there hiding in the darkness that we project onto his one single act. We can sit in the comfort and safety of our homes, our circle of friends, post our opinions on social media judging his actions, expressing our opinions and grief but it won’t change what has happened. These things will continue to happen until we decide to ask ourselves what we can do to prevent them, examine what role we play in the lives of others and how we may change our behavior to prevent another from stumbling. Although not as outwardly blatant, our decisions to judge others based on our opinions or beliefs is a stumbling block no different than one who entices others through words, pictures, actions or production into lust. “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Romans 14:13). “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).
It is in no way my intention to appear sympathetic to the actions this man demonstrated, it is my desire to place attention on the division of God’s people and the effects that division has on humanity. We will not overcome the destructive forces that are effecting us as a society until we decide to embrace the love, acceptance and forgiveness that God intended for us to display. When we can look from one to another and see only a brother or sister rather than a label we have placed on someone due to our judgment of them, see what we disapprove of in them or want to change who they are we will not find peace or harmony. It is our responsibility to walk as closely in the path of righteousness as possible, we can’t do that when we’re on the path of ‘self-righteousness’. We are to be teachers of men not judges, to attend to our relationship with Him and allow others to make the choice to do the same. If we are busy condemning others for their decisions who is attending our relationship with Him, we are to live the example and deliver the message.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:5-7).
We must stand with one voice, a voice that says we are accepting of the fact that each individual has the right to make their own choices whether they fit into our perception of right or wrong. We must stand with one voice and speak God’s truth to the multitudes, embrace each other with love and tolerance for our differences. We must be the change we want to see in the world, but we first must accept the fact that it is not our place to hold others accountable for following God’s word.