Several months ago a first time visitor came to our church on a Sunday morning. Also in attendance, was a homeless gentleman that had attended several times before. Our church had lovingly welcomed him in - however, he was mentally unstable and sometimes would wander in the back of the worship area muttering things that sounded threatening. We always made sure he was given something to eat and told him he would need to stay seated during the service. We also told him that he could no longer bring his backpack with him into the sanctuary. He seemed to understand and some of our staff made efforts to minister to him, be sure his needs were met and also protect everyone in attendance.
So back to that fateful Sunday morning...our homeless friend came into the sanctuary and was extremely agitated and was carrying his backpack. A few of our guys sat behind him and one of them tried to gently calm him down but he wasn’t able to. So they walked with him to the exit and explained that he would need to leave until he was calmer - no one was angry but we had to be sure that all the others in our service were safe. Our first time visitor saw what was happening and was instantly enraged. “You don’t care about the homeless! I’ll never come here again!” he said. We assured him that we very much cared about the homeless and tried to set up a time to discuss all of this with him. As you might have guessed - that never happened. He stormed out having decided that we were the bad guys without knowing the whole story.
We live in a sound-bite and click-bait world. People spend all their time and energy creating little snippets of information that are designed to do one thing: CREATE ANGER. And guess what? It’s working remarkably well. We read something or see a picture online and with zero other information the mob assembles to assassinate someone’s character. For example, after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School, a fictitious story was circulated that one of the survivors, David Hogg, was a fake - a “crisis actor”. Then the conspiracy theories started. People were saying things like, “He doesn’t even go to school there” (WRONG - he is a Senior). “Does anyone else find it suspicious that his dad is former FBI? Something just doesn’t smell right!” (WRONG again: there was no cover up, his dad had retired from the FBI due to an illness that they had wished to keep private). But no matter, enough people read what they wanted to read and now this family who is dealing with the illness of a parent and survived a school shooting IS RECEIVING DEATH THREATS.
Friends, we must do better. We have a responsibility to use the hearts and minds that God has given us and take a few extra minutes to fact check what we are reading before adding our voices to the angry mob. We all do it. I’m guilty of it too. Imagine if all of the effort that has been devoted to discrediting David Hogg and his family was used instead to care for them and find ways to encourage them. Wouldn’t that be amazing? What if we started doing that everywhere we went? What if?
As we all know by now, one week ago today the absolutely unthinkable occurred at Stoneman Douglas High School. We have seen and heard beautiful tributes from fellow students and watched parents try to come to grips with the sudden loss of their children. I’ve wept several times trying to imagine how we got to this place. But over the last few days I’ve noticed something that has broken my heart further- I’ve noticed fellow brothers and sisters in Christ using this moment in history to denounce all kinds of other things. In less than a week we’ve seemingly forgotten that people are still mourning and jumped straight into condemnation. I’ve read all kinds of theories about everything from video games to abortion to arming the teachers. I cannot imagine being a parent who’s child is dead and reading all the vitriol that’s being posted ESPECIALLY among Christians. We all have very strong opinions - and yet those 14 children and 3 adults are still dead.
We are all so busy trying to make our points that it seems we’ve skipped right over what Jesus said about being salt and light and peacemakers (Matthew 5). I keep trying to think about what Jesus would be doing right now if He still walked the earth in human form. So I keep going back to His word and from what I gather I believe He would be mourning and sitting with the bereaved. I believe He would be listening and looking for ways to bless others. The Jesus I follow would pour out compassion on this hurting and broken world and would encourage His flock to do the same. The only cause Jesus sought to advance when He walked this earth was His Kingdom.
Here’s a direct quote straight from Christ Himself:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
If we say we are Christians we also must believe that we have a common enemy who loves to divide and destroy us and, from the looks of my Facebook feed, he is having a heyday. We have to be savvy enough to know that people love to stir up controversy online and there is compelling evidence that there are Russian bots devised to do just that. In our passion and haste to make our opinions heard we must be careful to remember what matters most - and it’s not our human agendas. It is to make the Gospel known.
We don’t need agendas - we need Jesus. We don’t need more anger - we need Jesus. And by the way - Jesus does still walk the earth in human form - in us.
Just drove by Fort Lauderdale High School (where Delaney attended) and noticed students outside protesting. Decided to run to the store and grab bottled water and lollipops for them. Came back to hand them out and every single kid came up and thanked me and then they allowed me to speak to the group and pray for them. What an honor!
I don't have any pictures of it because I was too busy hugging them all and reassuring them that they aren't just someone else's kids. They all are MY KIDS TOO. Their voices must be heard - something has to change.
Let's spread the MY KIDS TOO message everywhere possible. We all have to speak up about this!
I'm sure that there will be people that will disagree with this message - but as a mother of a child that was in the middle of a shooting on her campus a few years ago - I have to speak up. Please do not leave negative comments on this post. I already know all of the arguments.
Respectfully and with a hopeful heart,
I recently attended an event where the speaker seemed to take great joy in mocking all the millennials in the crowd. (The generation of millennials, also known as Generation Y starts with those born in the 1980’s and ends with those born in the 2000’s.) They marched up to a group of teenagers sitting in the front row and said: “If something I say hurts your feelings, we have a safe space set up over here for you.” That was mild considering the barrage of insults that followed. There was nervous laughter in the room - except I wasn’t laughing. I sat there thinking that there was a wasted opportunity to speak life into those kids sitting there. The very same kids who deal with school shootings as normal and still get up and go to class every day. Those “marshmallows” as everyone loves to call them - all have their own shooting stories. My own daughter was a freshman in college when a gunman burst through the door of the library and started shooting. She saw the injured and was evacuated to a basement where she and fellow students hid for three hours. I don’t know what you all were doing when you were in college but I’m almost positive it wasn’t that. Guess what she did a few days later? Got up and went to class.
Now before all you pull out “back in my day” stories to defend your position - let me tell you a few stories of my own. I was in high school in the early 80’s and I never ever had a single thought that someone would fly planes into buildings and kill thousands. Back in my day, I just went to school and never had a moment where I thought about someone bursting through the door of my classroom and killing me. When I was growing up there wasn’t this insidious unlimited news cycle. I remember when flying was fun! I remember having tons and tons of free time to play and enjoy my friends and family. There was time to disconnect and just enjoy being in the moment. Then we invented this little thing called the internet and it offered constant entertainment and information. It made our world smaller and made us more aware of the injustices suffered all over the world. For many of us - the internet became our drug of choice offering up neverending porn, racism, all kinds of ugliness hidden behind the anonymity of a screen. For our children, the unlimited screen access was their constant companion and babysitter. Never before had children been exposed to this amount of stimuli and none of us really understood the dangers of it. Not just the dangers of it for our kids but for us as well.
Every generation has been maligned in one way or another - but here’s what we need to keep in mind: these kids didn’t raise themselves we raised them. And we are missing an incredible opportunity to love and guide them. They are amazing kids and instead of lumping them all into one negative category and bashing them - how about we get to know them and walk alongside them? Imagine the difference that you could make in the life of one of these fellow human beings.