Friday, June 17, 2016

The Horns of a Dilemma

In the early hours of this past Sunday morning, a gunman opened fire at an Orlando nightclub and left a wake of destruction in his trail:  49 dead, 53 wounded, several critically.  It is undoubtedly one of the worst single shootings on American soil ever.

But response to this tragedy is complicated.  For starters it was perpetrated by a gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State and praising the efforts of the Boston Marathon bombers.  This touches into fears that many have regarding Islam, terrorism, militants, etc… Compounding the confusion of our natural empathy is the fact that the nightclub was made up of the “other.”  The victims were predominately Latino which is a culture that not all of us identify closely with.  More distancing yet, the nightclub was a gay establishment, a lifestyle that most of us don’t endorse.

So how do we respond in a Gospel-centered, God-honoring way?  How do we avoid political pandering and genuinely grieve for those suffering without feeling pressured to hold the rainbow flag in solidarity with the lost?

Can I suggest that best place to start is Genesis 1:26-27.  Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Here is the solid, Biblical footing that we need in order to authentically grieve without feeling the need to respond politically out of fear or shame.  What we find woven into the fabric of God’s world is that every single human being is created in the image of God, and as such deserves love, respect, compassion, empathy, etc…  This is true regardless of whether we agree with them ideologically or religiously; whether they speak our language, or if they even speak at all.  What God does by creating humanity in His own image, is create a being of inestimable worth, PERIOD.  This is why the response of those like Stephen Anderson, a pastor from Arizona, who claims that “the world is better off with 50 less pedophiles” and who refuses to see the shooting as a tragedy are so, so wrong.  One does not need to condone a homosexual lifestyle to grieve over the brutal ending of an image bearer of God.

Understanding what it means that we are image bearers of God is one of the most fundamental truths to be grasped for the Christian. So much of how we understand this world, particularly our responses in it, is drawn from the implications of this teaching that we must grapple with it at the deepest level possible.  After all, it is out of love for rebellious, recalcitrant image bearers that Christ gave his life.

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