The Heart of the Matter…

My city is in pain. The country is in shock. And much of the world is in mourning. Amidst  everything that’s happened in Orlando in the past 3 days, I’ve never been more proud to call this city my home. While I may complain about the drivers, the cheesy pandering to tourism, and the mindless devotion to The Mouse, we certainly know how to come together for a cause. Among other examples, I’ve seen it in the way the city’s annual Breast Cancer Walk comes second only to LA in total attendance each year. I’ve seen it in the way we’ve embraced our new MLS team and surprised the league with sellout crowds every game. And this weekend, I’ve seen it in the heroic efforts of our emergency response teams, the solidarity of our citizens to stand in the Florida sun for hours to give blood- enough that many were being turned away- and the general unity of people in our city despite the deep-seated political and religious nature of the events that have happened two days in a row.

And so it angers- no, it disgusts me- that people are taking this opportunity to make all-encompassing statements, both for and against, the LGBT community, gun control, immigration, Islam, and the like. There certainly will be time for those things- in proper context and with rational minds. Not in the immediate hours after the largest mass shooting in US history. Not while bodies are still being identified and there are family members out there waiting to hear if their loved ones are coming back or not. Save your political agendas. Save your capitalizing on tragedy for a boost in polling numbers or media ratings.

And save your calls for actions that will always only treat the symptoms and never the source of the problems.

Guns don’t need controlling. Our wicked hearts need conviction and restoration so that we don’t find compelling desires to kill. People of different orientation don’t need protection or special laws passed. We need to learn the distinction between obedient religious practice and respecting basic human dignity and life. Immigrants don’t need to be banned, deported, or treated as criminals. The best way to create a criminal is to put someone in a system in which they have no choice but to become one. We don’t have to be afraid of, or violent against, Muslims. We need to do a better job of meeting our neighbors and letting everyone feel like they belong to a tangible local community and not just a nebulous ideological one.

See, in our gut reactions to large-scale tragedy is to call for sweeping change that affects every occurrence of anything in the situation that is different from what we know. Different is scary. Different is confusing. But different doesn’t have to be threatening. And different doesn’t have to mean bad. We simply need a new mindset. A new perspective. And we need to have repentant hearts.

If we want to see real change happen in our city, our country, and the world, it has to start from within.

  1. Deal with sin inside our own camp. Experience a thorough cleaning and scouring and expect it to be painful. Hear this stated plainly- you are wrong about something. Find out what, and repent of it.
  2. Teach only what is good, true, noble, and right to our children. They will lead the way into long-term change. Anyone who expects things to change overnight is delusional. While we adults have years of institutionalized stubbornness and pride drilled into us, our children are the future we wish to see in the present. Teach them to embrace what is good and reject what is evil- no matter what form it takes. And teach them to understand the difference.
  3. Only then, do we focus outside of our home. Make a positive impact on your community. Always do what is right, even when accused otherwise. Peter’s first letter says, “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

Be wary of anyone who points the finger. But then again, don’t point right back at them. Remember that the true problem is a matter of the heart. So start with yours.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”   – Matthew 7.3-5

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