Many Puerto Ricans have fled their home island because of its sinking economy and nasty crime rate. Almost half a million of them have come to the U.S., in search of refuge, and found a haven in Orlando.
Twenty-three of them were dancing when they were shot to death. A staggering 90 percent of the 49 people killed were of Hispanic descent, including Mexican, Colombian and Dominican. Today the Hispanic community is reeling from its loss.
I am not Hispanic. But I know this: Jesus loves Hispanic people. If Jesus has my heart, I will feel some ache with them.
Henri Nouwen once said something like, “Nothing human is alien.” When we see suffering or sin in another person, no matter how different or “other” they may appear to be, the truth is they, and we are of the same cloth, bound in the same human family. Everyone struggles to find a haven, a refuge, from our sin and suffering. The sprawling grace of Jesus is for all of us, without discrimination. This is why Christians are sent on a mission to show love to everyone, in ways that draw people to the love of God. We do our best to muster up love as we mirror the embrace of Christ. Indeed, God so loved the whole world that he gave his only Son….
The 49 victims who were killed were Floridians. I don’t live in Florida. But I know this: Jesus loves Florida people. If Jesus has my heart, I will feel some ache with them.
Many of those gunned down were gay, with stunned partners, parents and families left in shock. They had sought refuge at a nightclub, a haven where they felt safe. I am not gay. But I know this: Jesus loves gay people. If Jesus has my heart, I will feel some ache with them.
The shooter was a man confused, angry, who seems to have let hate take root in his mind and heart. And because nothing human is alien, there is some sense in which I understand and even share that experience. The same is true for you. And as disgusting and frustrating and confounding as it may be, I have come to admit this: Jesus loves even shooter people.
How vast is the love of Jesus.
Before we pile on, spewing more confusion, fear and hate, and before we walk away with hearts numbed to another newsflash that will eventually fade into the woodwork…and before we dive into this issue, seeing it as mostly about guns or immigration or presidential politics or homosexuality or radical Islamic terrorism – can we see that it is part of the suffering and sin of people who need Jesus? Can we allow it to make our hearts ache for the ways of God to come to earth?
May this horrific tragedy in Orlando lead us all to fall silent before a God of love, or come crying out to him in anguish, or shouting our frustrations at the injustices of life. One way or another turn to the Lord. That’s what we do.
And then eventually rise up from an encounter with God with fresh resolve to love more fully and completely all those humans Jesus has sent us to love.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. … Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:11
In the end, there is only one refuge, one haven, one safe place to land.