I was nearing fifth grade graduation when news broke about the Columbine shooting. Tears soaked my cheeks as I lamented the victims and their families. I watched the TV in shock — I’d never heard of such a horrific and hateful act taking place on US soil!
With every heart wrenching story of another mass shooting, I’ve slowly become calloused towards these acts of terror. Not in a sense that I no longer grieve for those suffering, because I definitely do, but the news doesn’t carry the same shock factor. It’s almost expectant to hear of a shooting here or a bombing there. It’s really sad that this has become our reality.
Yet the Orlando shooting struck me in a similar manner to that of Columbine. It not only holds the highest death and injury count, but Florida is my home turf. I’ve gone out in Downtown Orlando and I have friends who live there currently. How could this happen?
So what can we do about this? We can live with our guard up – wrapping ourselves in a fearful, protective bubble – avoiding churches, malls, movie theaters and night clubs. Or we can fight back. And by fight, I don’t mean purchasing firearms, starting wars or campaigning for gun laws (While I believe there are definitely things that could be done to help, I’ll save those issues & debates for another time).
So for now, here’s how we should fight back…
Fight for Love
I apparently attended high school with the shooter, Omar Mateen. His photo is printed in a yearbook that I helped create. I may have passed him in the hallway or sat by him in an assembly. I may have stood behind him in the cafeteria line or rocked out next to him at the Homecoming dance. Did I smile at him and give a friendly “hello?” Or did I ignore him, keeping to my clique?
I can’t control the actions of others, but I can control my own. I can choose to intentionally love and accept those around me. Key word being intentional. I can be the most loving person to my friends and family, but living a loving lifestyle goes beyond being “good” and “kind” to my inner circle. Intentionally loving others means being proactive about serving strangers in need, looking for ways to accept the rejected, and listening to the concerns of those who are different than me. This kind of love is active, not passive.
A friend of mine who lives in Orlando posted this the day after the shooting: If you're feeling disheartened from looking at your newsfeed, know that the best of humanity is showing itself right now. There's probably 100 people in line for this bloodmobile right now, and they are all bringing each other sunblock and umbrellas for shade in the hot sun, watching each other's kids while they give blood, and buying big packs of water to share with strangers.
Rather than burning with anger and posting critical comments about other religions, lifestyles, or the shooters themselves, which just fosters hatred, let’s ignite the flames of love!
Who knows if loving on Omar back in high school would’ve made a difference or not in how he turned out. But one thing is for sure: If we have the choice between love and hate, I’ll choose to love. Real. Active. Love.
Fight for Unity
With every act of terror, slivers of division creep through our culture. When a Muslim man shoots up a night club, suddenly every Muslim is eyed with caution. When a racist white boy bombards a black church, the unity between blacks and whites crumbles.
People start living defensively, on edge, and full of fear — suddenly a tiny fissure turns into a canyon, and a generation that was doing so well with tolerance, shatters.
There will be radicals of every race, religion and sect, but why judge the many on account of the few? Together we’re strong, but separate we’re weak. Let’s not let the extremists have their way and cause division among us.
Fight for Acceptance
I wish we could agree to disagree in a loving manner.
While my faith is the center of my world and I desire for everyone to know my Savior, I can’t expect those outside my faith to adhere to the Bible. The Apostle Paul says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” (1 Corinthians 5:12).
Jesus loved the tax collectors and prostitutes… those who didn’t share his beliefs (initially). In fact, the ones he condemned were those within the temple – the devout Jews and religious leaders who were too blinded by their own self-righteousness to see that their long-awaited Messiah was right in front of them.
So let’s take Jesus and Paul’s approach and choose to love those who don’t share our beliefs – not condemn them. It’s the only way to 1) accept others for who they are and where they’re at; and 2) to show the love of Jesus to them through our words and actions.
Fight for Truth
Paul writes that “the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
I feel that we’re included in this “time” — we often pick and choose what we want out of the Bible because we don’t understand the context in which it was written, or the verse in relation to other scriptures. So let’s be careful about what we say or post on social media, so we're not covering the truth with our opinions or stating scripture out of context. There's no greater way to cause division, anger and hate than to misquote the Bible and teach a false gospel.
We can’t expect our pastors and Bible study leaders to teach us everything from the Bible. There are too many verses, books and topics to learn it all from one or two hours a week. We need to be digging in on our own time, seeking answers and learning the Word so we can speak truth and be the light.
Time to Step Up
I know this blog is supposed to focus on Christian-based businesses, but with the recent crisis, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to encourage believers everywhere to step up and start living in love!
Let's fight for love
Let's fight for unity.
Let's fight for acceptance.
Let's fight for truth.
These may not be the be-all, end-all solutions to today's problems, but it's a start... and it's something each and every one of us can practice!
Come back next week for a glimpse of how we can apply this to our businesses!