The news from Orlando is pretty horrific – 50 dead and 53 more wounded. It’s astonishing how much harm can be done by one hate-filled individual. Just one. Not an army. Not even a team. Just one person.
We’re all praying for the affected communities in Orlando. For the friends and families of those killed. For the wounded, who will be struggling to adjust to a new “normal.” For the LGBT community who now must wonder if they can ever gather safely. And for the larger Orlando community, wrestling with a wound and a lost sense of security that will take months – years – to heal.
But I have another prayer as well. I’m praying for all of us, that we won’t give in to fear. This is the sort of event that shakes a nation. Shakes our collective sense of security. That’s the point of terrorism. That’s where the word comes from – the root of the word and the goal of it’s practitioners is “terror.”
When we’re fearful, we look for quick solutions. A lock on the door. A new insurance policy. A gun under the pillow. A move to a safer neighborhood/city/state. Some of these changes can be genuinely beneficial. But when millions of people are fearful all at the same time, the quickest solutions are often the most fundamentally damaging to the character of the people themselves. A frightened people will do terrible things to feel safe again. Give up freedoms. Vilify outsiders and minorities – anyone who reminds us of the source of our fear. A frightened people will make collective decisions out of the worst parts of human nature.
Even more damaging is the overwhelming desire in our politicians to play to the fear. Ride the fear. Even feed the fear. Fearful individuals can make regretable decisions. Fearful masses can make catastrophic decisions. Unscrupulous leaders will play our fear for personal gain.
So my prayer for Orlando is that there would be at outpouring of love. Of hugs, donations, open doors and open hearts. I pray that Orlando’s churches would reach out to Orlando’s LGBT community in a way both heart-warming and barrier-breaking.
But my prayer for the rest of us – especially those of us who call ourselves Jesus followers – is that we would resist the siren song of fear. This side of heaven, security is an illusion at best. We are never more than one drunken driver or cancer diagnosis away from a life-altering or life-ending event. Never. And yet paradoxically, as followers of Jesus, we are always secure. The love of Christ is all we need, and no event on Earth can take that away from us. As followers of Jesus, we are safe. Always. In all neighborhoods. In all circumstances. At all times.
And so it falls to us to demonstrate fearless living to our friends and neighbors. As Justin Martyr before the Romans, Deitrich Bonhoeffer before the Nazis, Martin Luther King Jr. before the racist whites of Birmingham, we have access to supernatural peace. A peace that allows us to stand before the threat of the sword, the gallows, the firebomb, the terrorist, the cancer diagnosis, and respond as all those saints before us – with love. Supernatural love that comes from supernatural peace. Supernatural love that drives out fear. Supernatural love that is the key to showing a frightened nation a better way.
Pray for Orlando. And for all of us.
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