This past Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of 9-11, and to me, it still seems like yesterday I was watching that horrible day unfold on every single TV channel. I think we could all agree that the world has changed since then, but especially since we were kids.
If I wasn’t in school when I was young, I was probably out on my bike riding through my neighborhood or a neighboring neighborhood. At a friend’s house. Putting pennies on the train tracks and waiting for a train to flatten them. Playing kickball on the street corner. Or in the woods behind my house playing in the creek.
My parents didn’t manage my time, because they were busy doing grown-up things and besides, the world was a pretty safe place then.
No more, though.
Kids aren’t able to spend all day outside anymore without their parents knowing where they are, often checking in by phone several times a day. That is, if their parents don’t have an app on their own smart phones to track their children’s’ whereabouts. Because you can’t not know these days.
And it’s not just kids that aren’t safe.
The world is unsafe. Just in the past year:
My hometown of Orlando.
It’s not like I didn’t already know that the world was a scary place, but when people you know are directly impacted by something like this, well, it’s hard not to feel like the devil is on your doorstep. In the whole scheme of the history of the world, it’s really never been a safe place, but most of us who have grown up in the Western hemisphere have never had to face war, poverty or any kind of life where fear and danger are more the norm than not.
I’m hardly the first to say this and others have said it more succinctly and eloquently than me, but…. what happened in Orlando, Chattanooga, Paris or Brussels…
Isn’t about gay people.
Isn’t about gun violence.
Isn’t about terrorists.
Isn’t about Islam.
It’s about a world that doesn’t know the one true God for whom any judgment is matched only by His unlimited mercy, love and grace. It’s about souls desperately seeking truth and unconditional love, but finding a fallen, hypercritical world in its stead.
As a society, we’ve lost our way in that what used to be bad is now considered normal or good. To wit, the ease with which the “f word” is used in conversation, song, and just about everywhere. Thinking that if we’re doing what feels good, it is good for us. Ditto for a whole host of other things that I don’t need to list; you’re already well aware of them too.
We’ve become so rigid about saying and doing the supposedly right thing, that we’ve lost our common sense and the ability to discern the actual right thing. In our efforts to not offend anybody, we’re offending everybody. In our desire to be inclusive to everyone, we’ve become overly-exclusive of those we don’t agree with. Instead of “one nation under God,” we’re a nation of me against you because what I believe is the only right way of believing.
We’ve lost our way because we’ve decided we’re gods, in control of everything in our own private Idaho.
Or so we think.
The reality is that we have no control over anything. Except our reaction to the world around us, and consequently our actions afterward. Do we do nothing? Do we start making snide comments about the situation? In this case, Muslims, gays, gun rights activists? Or do we model the love of Jesus?
I have an acquaintance who has hosted Muslim exchange students in her home for the past few years. On purpose. Out of the four she and her family have lived with, do you know how many have gone back home to the Middle East raging against Christians and Christianity?
Do you know how many have gone home proclaiming the life-changing love of Jesus?
To me, that’s how we need to react when something as heinous as Orlando, Paris and all those other mass killings take place.
What if we all welcomed the people whose beliefs we’re most at odds with? If we sat down and had a kind, thoughtful, inquisitive, non-judgmental conversation with someone who also has preconceived ideas of who we are, by virtue of the fact that we call ourselves Christians?
I don’t know exactly, but I think it’s a world that I’d like to try living in just to see how the love of Jesus could change lives.
I suspect though, that the first life changed would be mine….