The Florida shooting: WWJD?

Once again there has been another mass shooting this time in a Florida school in Parkland where 17 students were shot by a former student Nicky Cruz.

Once again the media is full of people using it to advance an agenda whether it be gun control, mental health, school security, the uselessness of prayers or abortion as the biggest killer of children.

But perhaps we should ask the most important question: what would Jesus do?

In Luke 13:1-5 we see Jesus told about a tragedy where Pilate murdered some Israelites as they were in the middle of their sacrifices which was considered a truly heinous action.

Does Jesus respond with outcry against the Romans? A demand for justice? A demand to rise up with the Zealots to fight back? Does he respond with sympathy? A call to pray to stop these injustices?

No.

He responds saying that we all deserve to die.

This seems shocking and barbaric to us today.

You probably, like me, want to explain away Jesus actions to something more palatable. Whilst we will look at context in a moment – the important thing is that Jesus is the truth so if we react adversely to his words or actions then it is because we are believing a lie.

Now in those days it was believed that sin would be punished in this life – therefore if something bad happened then it was a sign of Gods judgement. Hence Jesus responds by asking whether those who were killed by others or even by accident are more sinful.

At which point we probably laugh at such foolish behaviour and think ourselves superior and never likely to fall into such errors.

However, CS Lewis hits the nail on the head with:

“[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.”

Today, we believe the opposite error – that none of us deserve death or punishment and all of us should go to heaven. This may be expressed more subtlety as “those poor innocent children” and “no-one deserves such a death”.

Jesus’ answer to the false belief of those days, which was repeated by Paul in Romans: “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and “the wages of sin are death”, speaks against both errors.

Since all deserve to die and be punished for our wilful rebellion against the Creator of the universe then a death doesn’t mean that victims are more sinful but nor does it mean that it is unfair because they are innocent or don’t deserve it.

However, it does mean that “we do not know the day or hour” and it is important to get ourselves right with God before we face judgement. And such a tragedy always brings us all face to face with our mortality and provides a window to speak to people’s hearts however much we might think it’s not the time.

Some years ago in our town a small boy drowned in a garden pond. This was a heart-breaking tragedy which severely affected my wife and I remember praying for God to intervene in this couple’s life. A couple of years later my wife met the mother of that boy and expressed her deepest condolences. Her response was a testimony to the greatness of God and how so many of her family had been saved as a result of this tragedy. For we have a God that can bring light into the darkest places.

So let us not be so insensitive that we don’t “mourn with those who mourn” but let us also not be so inoffensive that we waste a golden opportunity to share the Gospel.

Let this time be a time to bring not just earthly comfort to those trying to make sense of this tragedy but eternal comfort of a life with Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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An alternative ending to the Orlando shooting

**Content warning: this will be an honest account of some of my sexual struggles during my life and may not be appropriate for minors nor for those of a sensitive nature**

How long do you need to spec a gay bar before committing an atrocity?  1 day, 1 week, 1 month…how about 3 years?

This is how long Omar Mateen had been visiting the Pulse gay nightclub before he shot and killed 49 people.

People are naturally looking for an explanation of what happened.  For some it’s about lax gun controls, for others its about hatred of gays, for some it’s simply about a mentally unstable man.  I’d like to offer a different commentary based on parallels in my life.

The Qur’an is clear that homosexuality is a sin.  Yet Omar had been attending this gay nightclub for at least 3 years and had been having conversations with gay men via a gay dating app.

I would like to suggest that Omar struggled with the issue of being attracted to men and yet knowing it was wrong.  Islam offers no grace, no help to stop sinning, only law.  You must not do this.  What do you do in this situation?  How long can you live under such condemnation before you finally flip and lash out at yourself (through cutting or suicide) or at others (through abuse up to murder).

I understand a little of Omar’s struggle.

I never felt affirmed as a man.  I felt that I was a disappointment to my father and didn’t measure up.  My father-in-law also didn’t see me as a man and whilst I remember joking in my wedding speech that “it’s not so much losing a daughter but gaining a womany-bloke” the truth is I didn’t feel like a “proper” man.  Getting married didn’t fix that.  Nor did becoming a father.  I felt the constant need for approval of a father-figure that I never received growing up.

During my early marriage I acted out by looking at pornographic images of women. I knew it was wrong and I hated myself for it.  I used to take out my anger on my wife.  Often as a defensive mechanism because if she got too close she would expose who I really was and I didn’t want that.  So I’d make out that it was her fault.

However, whilst early exposure to pornography and subsequent masturbation had hardwired my brain to women the yearning for manly approval grew and became more sexual.  I started fantasising about kissing certain men when I was talking to them.  I needed to feel loved and wanted by these men.  But I knew that this was wrong too*.  And I hated myself for it.  I tried to suppress it but it kept coming back.  Just like the way I projected my self-loathing onto my wife due to my pornographic addiction, I projected my self-loathing about my same-sex attraction onto gays.  I would see homosexuality as the unforgivable sin and loathe them in my heart.

Given the similarities between my life and Omar’s – the overbearing father, the religious upbringing I know that this could have easily been my story.

Some will interject now and say “you need to accept these desires as natural and reject this outdated religious bigotry”.  However, to quote CS Lewis:

“He (Satan) always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites.  And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse.  You see why of course?  He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.  But do not let us be fooled.  We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors”

My story ends differently.  Instead of denying my desires I didn’t just accept them and act on them, I expressed them to Jesus.  I honestly told him about my struggles.  As I admitted the truth, I brought these desires into the light and that was when the transformation began.  He opened my eyes to the fact that it was only men in authority that I wanted to kiss.  It was because of my feeling so unmanly, so unworthy, so useless that was the root of my desire to be accepted and loved by authority figures.  Jesus has all authority (Mt 28:18), he is above every power and authority (Eph 1:20-22; Phil 2:9-10) and he loves me (Jn 15:9,12).  As I have been receiving the approval of the ultimate authority I have become more whole.  As I have drunk deep of Christ’s masculinity I have become more manly.  As I have received the Father’s love and approval my desires for men have simply faded away.  I have become complete and whole in Him who is my all in all (1 Cor 15:28).  I know that without this grace I could have very well been Omar.

Omar, I’m sorry you didn’t discover this third way.  I’m sorry you didn’t receive this love and grace that transforms.  I’m sorry that others paid the price for your self-hatred.

Can I recommend my friends blog article on the Orlando shooting that expresses something of the heart of God here.

* It’s not the purpose of this article to defend the traditional Christian view of homosexuality.  Others have done that adequately elsewhere.  Any plain sense reading of passages such as Rom 1:26-27 and a correct understanding of hermeutics will support this.  However, we mustn’t get pushed into the false dichotomy of if I don’t agree I must hate gays.  Hopefully this article expresses this a little though I think Michael King’s post on the Orlando shooting that I recommended above expresses it beautifully.