Last month I published a post in response to the Orlando tragedy. My anger came out of a desire for others to comfort the hurting, to love those who are often unloved. The blogosphere and social media similarly erupted with responses from individuals with #PrayForOrlando and other expressions of solidarity. For many, especially in the Christian world, the tragedy of Orlando was something so distant, so disconnected.
As I sit across from my keyboard reading the stories of the tragedy in Istanbul and in other parts of the near-east in the most recent days, I find I am too sitting at a disconnect. I find myself asking the questions of how do I love and how do I mourn well. How would Jesus have me to respond? How, if at all, can I mourn with those who have experienced this tragedy? How do I mourn with love for those who seem so distant? Truthfully, I am not sure. I know I must for the scriptures calls every believer to mourn with those who mourn. To let love always be genuine and to abhor that which is evil.[i]
For Orlando it was easy to grieve. Well at least it was easy for me to grieve. The horror which had unfolded came upon men and women that were to some degree like me. They lived in a world I had known.[ii] As the horror unfolded it was too easy imagine being one of the forty-nine. My livid response that I shared earlier in the month here came from an empathetic place where I wondered who would grieve for me, who would mourn for me had it been I laid slain in cold-blood upon the dance floor.[iii]
The aftermath shook the LGBT+ world down to its core. Those who I once was like now trembled in fear. They wandered in pain, grief and tears. They mourned well those who their kindred. They celebrated the small victories of hope. They cherished and comforted the lives of those spared. The world took notice and grieved with them. The grief though dreadful in circumstance was beautiful and pointed to something more because it was done well.
This week in the wake of Istanbul and so many tragedies in the near east I am finding it difficult to mourn with those who mourn. My heart is somewhat hard. A few days after the Orlando tragedy, a friend came up to me not sure how to responded. They admitted I was the only gay person they actually know and wanted to make sure that I was alright. In truth I wasn’t sure how to respond. It wasn’t like gay people are that rare, our small town community is filled with so many of us. To some degree I wanted to yell. I wanted to yell that there lies before us a world of lost people. A lost world that is often normally shutoff. A lost world whose doors have sprung wide open for others to come in. I wanted to shake them and say that this is an opportunity of a life time to share the hope of Jesus and be the love of Jesus. This is your opportunity to fulfill a portion of scripture. Yet, there they stood trying to love me, trying to do something when it was obvious they felt a disconnect. What she did was good. She made an effort. What she did was more than just pray, she prayed and took action. For that I commend her. I was angry to a degree trying to imagine how can anyone allow themselves to exist in such a bubble. Yet, here I am I too in a bubble. Last night I reached out to my only friend who is from Turkey. The disconnect was real. I stumbled in my words and tried to express solidarity. Admittedly there is a significant difference in Orlando and Istanbul. Each situation will always be different. The point being sometime it’s hard to grieve when worlds apart.
In a world that is so fallen and segmented, how shall we grieve for one another?
- Pray fervently. Pray to the Lord that our hearts would break for people. Pray with your church and other believers. Call them to prayer. Pray for the Spirit’s guidance in how to respond. Pray for the Spirit guidance in how to those whom Jesus loves. Pray for the Spirit to open yours eyes that you may see those who are in need around you.
- Comfort. Look for those around you who may be hurting. Comfort them. Tell them you love them. Mean it. If there is none that you can see, look to find helpers. Try to find ways to empower them. Exercise the gift of building up others. Ask them are you ok? Even if they say yes, spend time with them.
- Acknowledge they are loved and you stand with them. Acknowledge for who they are and what has happened. Be public and private with your expression. Build upon that they too are created in the image of God and are brilliantly loved by Jesus. Love them and walk beside them because they are people whom Jesus loves. If there is someone in your life who has been impacted or you have access to someone who has is impacted then stop by and see them. If they are distant, call them. Too often the wounded are those trying to be strong making not space for heal. Let love be healing.When we fulfill scripture in grieving with those who grieve, we must be prepared to make space in our lives for them. We must be compassionate in bearing witness. We must be gentle and empathetic with grief that often turns into anger. Anger is an essential part of the grieving process, even for us who are grieving with others. To be inhospitable is to fail shared grief. We must always let love be genuine.
- Abhor that which is evil. Publicly denounce any horror that may come to mar others. Find ways to fight back against it. Fight the good fight. Testify of the good. Fight evil with grace God has given us. Death and destruction has no room in the kingdom of God. Christ is not only a gracious and loving God, but he is victor. Make way for the gospel of Jesus Christ and his kingdom. Push back the darkness.
At the end of the day, if you ever feel a disconnect, then remember these are people whom Jesus love. Your love for Jesus should open doors in helping you love them.
[i] Romans 12:9 and Romans 12:15
[ii] This is not to say that I have experienced an orientation change in my sexuality. The language of identity is used to acknowledge that there was once a time I tried to identify with the world yet Christ changed me into being a new creation in him.
[iii] Jesus calls all those who will come unto him brothers and sisters. He has given us through and in him a new family.
Image used courtesy of Creative Commons | bll | Flickr