Just a few weeks ago, I was camping on a farm in Tennessee, enjoying the sweet sound of live music with a friend of mine (and thousands of new friends) when I came across the news about the Orlando night club shooting that had just occurred 12 hours earlier. Forty-nine people dead… for what?
I really hate the news. In fact, you will rarely find me watching, listening, or reading anything news-related. Sure, you can call me ignorant or out-of-touch, but I actually avoid it because I can only listen to stories of the horrific things humans are doing to each other so much. The root of the majority of these stories comes down to disagreements… in perspective, in outcomes, or in personal beliefs or morals.
Disagreements aren’t anything new. In the book of Acts, we’re introduced to Stephen, “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), and we can assume he was pretty likeable, respected, and intelligent since he sat on the first deaconate ever (Acts 6:1-4). With all the power of the Holy Spirit residing in him, he decided to call a few people out… on their idolatry, stubbornness towards God, and the murdering of the Messiah. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over so well with the leaders and ultimately, Stephen was stoned to death for the simple fact that he boldly spoke TRUTH and pointed out their need for (a whole lotta) Jesus.
We live in a world where opinions reign and disagreements are too often met with violence. We aren’t practicing truth, we’re practicing tolerance. Don’t get me wrong here; I believe in tolerance. God did not call us here to judge, He called us here to love others and share the Good News.
However, I think the idea of tolerance has turned into a permission slip to let it all slide…
the words we speak,
and the wounds we inflict on others from both.
We spew out opinions, whether backed by Truth or not, and then hide behind our screens. Yes, we’re bold, but only if we can hide out when the storm comes.
When Stephen was stoned to death, the church didn’t hide out in caves or go underground to become some secret society with a sweet handshake and uber secret passcode. No, they spread out to every corner of the world, preaching the Gospel everywhere they went. They delivered the Truth boldly with grace and kindness, and when someone disagreed, violence wasn’t the answer. Instead, THEY were persecuted.
Early believers weren’t silenced by persecution (Acts 7:51-8:4). They risked everything — their freedom and lives — to preach the Gospel. Their drive to love others for God far outweighed their fear of persecution. It’s time we start living with the same perspective.
We aren’t here to persecute others. We’re here to speak the Truth with love and share the Good News as much as we can. We may not agree with the actions or words of others, but we are not responsible for making judgments. Our world needs us to speak the Truth louder than ever.
My time on the farm that weekend was full of love and acceptance. Thousands gathered to enjoy live music and summertime, completely accepting of the unique qualities of others and the lifestyles they led. After hearing about the Orlando shooting, I walked into the venue enjoying every high-five along the way, taking in the beauty that transpires when all judgments are abandoned to appreciate life and everyone we meet along the way.
Mass casualties are becoming a daily occurrence in our world unfortunately. On a summer night in Orlando, 49 beautiful people lost their lives because one person couldn’t accept the differences in others. If now isn’t a great time to start living by Truth, I don’t know what is. It’s time to let go of bitterness, resentment, and malicious behavior (Ephesians 4:31) and accept others** just as we’ve been accepted by Christ (Romans 13:7). At the end of the day, as Christians, we live to glorify His name, and the first step is to simply love as He has always loved us.
**Editor’s Note: This is not to encourage accepting the beliefs of others as: RIGHTEOUS, as your own views, or as their final fate. Rather, we encourage you to accept that they believe what they do at this point of time. Focus on being a willing extension of God’s love. Rather than working to alter their beliefs, believe that God can altar their hearts.