I’m tired. I’m really so tired. I’m tired of not having the right words for a world that is in such desperate need for hope. I’m tired of my friends and family trying to make sense of senseless violence. I’m tired of living in a world that seeks to give meaning to tragedy by labeling the victims or the oppressors with grandiose terms that simply go further to divide us. And I’m tired of the church responding in silence or worse yet responding with the same malevolence that leads to atrocities like that which just took place in Orlando…Orlando. A city that is usually synonymous with childhood excitement and imagination. The city of Mickey and the Magic Kingdom, Seaworld and Harry Potter and Universal Studios is now most closely associated with the worst mass shooting on US Soil of the 21st century. Orlando; a name that means ‘famous throughout the land’ has now become infamous for all the wrong reasons.
Many times when I am trying to make sense of hatred and violence and how the church is called to respond in our modern age, I look to the prophets of Israel. Prior to the birth of the church, the role the church was intended to play for the world (revealing God and his love for mankind) belonged to Israel. Unfortunately they at times did not understand how to fulfill that role either. And so the prophets resonate loudly in our world today. Hate is a word that I am not too fond of and yet one of the prophets uses it to help us make sense of the world in which we find ourselves in. Amos was a prophet called to critique the disconnect between hollow religious worship and societal injustice in Israel. Speaking the heart of God to those assembled he has this to say, ““I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” – Amos 5:21-24
When it comes to the word hate, it is not used for people groups or individuals, but rather for worship that is not connected to justice for the least of these. Israel had been oppressing those they deemed unworthy and therefore God looks down upon their worship with disgust…hatred. When we look to the prophetic voice to see that which God truly hates we see it is our hollow assemblies where we gather for worship but forget that our fellow man is made in the image of the same God that we gather to worship on a weekly basis. We have to stop labeling. We have to stop distancing people from us because they are not like us. We have to become active in sharing the love of Christ everywhere. In light of this most recent tragedy perhaps it is in giving blood or donating to the Red Cross or giving to a church in Orlando that is fulfilling the call to be light in the darkness. But we cannot allow our worship to be disconnected from compassionate action anymore. Our worship cannot be separate from God’s justice and righteousness anymore. We must find ourselves shining like light in the darkness and realizing that hate and fear and apathy are never the answer.