Christopher Andrew Leinonen was one of the victims of the Orlando massacre. As thousands gathered for his funeral last Saturday, a handful of protesters from Westboro Baptist Church arrived. The tiny church has made itself famous over the years by picketing the funerals of military personnel and anyone else with whom it disagrees.
But this time the protesters were met by a group of men and women dressed as angels. Their large wings formed a wall that shielded mourners from the picketers. The tactic worked: one attendee said, “We couldn’t even hear WBC. All you could hear was peace and love.”
As a theologian who is convinced that the Bible forbids same-sex activity, I am saddened by the success of LGBT advocates in promoting their unbiblical agenda in our culture. But as a Christian who is convinced that God loves us all, no matter our sexual orientation or lifestyle, I am also saddened by the response of some Christians to the Orlando tragedy. A pastor in Sacramento said in a sermon, “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.” A pastor in Arizona said of the massacre, “I’m not sad about it; I’m not going to cry about it.”
Do you love anyone enough to send your child to die for them? Does anyone love you that much? The Lord does: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). As a result, “anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
You and I were once as lost as every lost person we know: “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:1–2). As a result, we were “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (v. 3). But “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (v. 8).
Now our Father wants us to love the world he loves.
Let’s be clear: Loving people does not mean compromising on moral truth. If your house is on fire, you deserve to know the truth whether you want to hear it or not. But loving does mean that we speak moral truth with humility and compassion. Evangelists are “beggars telling other beggars where they found bread.”
People who need to repent are unlikely to welcome such news. That’s why it’s imperative that we deliver it with grace. We resent people who claim to be morally superior to us. But we are more likely to listen to people who risk our rejection by telling us what we need to know for no reason except that they love us.
Cultural commentator Jonathan Merritt recently lamented evangelicals whose response to cultural issues he considers more negative than loving. He notes: “You can’t transform a culture while you’re browbeating, rebuking, name-calling and gagging. That’s not a recipe for cultural engagement, but rather cultural enragement” (his emphasis).
After the Pulse nightclub shooting, an Illinois man drove 1,200 miles to place forty-nine wooden crosses alongside a lake outside the Orlando Health Medical Center. How will you take the cross to your culture today?