BY REV. DR. SARAH ROHRET -- UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF ARNOLDS PARK
A killer walked into a nightclub with guns and murdered 49 people, and afterward many want to find people to blame.
But who do we blame? The Muslim faith to which the killer belonged? The Christian faith that has condemned LGBT persons? The gun laws that allow weapons to be easily purchased? The mental health system and school system that failed to help a man who was deeply troubled from his youth? The FBI and law enforcement who didn't do more to monitor an abuser with ties to terrorism?
Unfortunately, there is more than enough blame to go around -- but does blaming help? Blame is often used to deflect responsibility. One group points to another group in order to not have to accept its own part in the tragedy. Gun makers and sellers point to the mental health system in order not to change sales laws. Mental health points to law enforcement in order to not change their system. Etc, etc.
What does our faith tell us in the midst of all the pointing of fingers and blaming?
Our faith tells us that all people are precious, created by God and called good. That we are here to love each other and to be a neighbor to each other -- especially those who are hurting. Our faith tells us to clean up our own messes before pointing out other people's messes (take care of the log in your own eye before pointing out the sliver in another person's eye).
In the midst of tragedy -- national or personal -- the important thing is not to figure out what other people could have done, but to ask: "What can I do now?"
What can we each do to love better and make the world better?
I can watch my words and be careful not to condemn groups of people, because one person in the group made a tragic mistake.
I can love my neighbor as Jesus tells me too, with humble service and no condemnation -- my gay neighbor, my Muslim neighbor, my other-political-party neighbor, my other-race neighbor.
I can work harder to help myself, my family and my friends have good mental health. Getting help is not a weakness -- it is a success to get help when it is needed.
I can instill a healthy fear of firearms in my family and make sure our firearms are locked and secure at all times.
I can encourage my government leaders to work together, across political lines, to think comprehensively and find solutions that will prevent future tragedy.
I can do good. I can pray, give blood, volunteer, go into the world to make it a better place -- on earth as it is in heaven.
In the midst of tragedy our faith calls us to commit ourselves to being even more like Jesus, more loving, more graceful, more forgiving, more determined to do what we can do and let God take care of the rest. In the midst of tragedy, we are not alone. God is with us. God cries with us, mourns each death and brings comfort to the hurt. God restores our hope. God gives us each other that we may support and encourage each other. God gives us another day to try again -- another day to love better. Thanks be to God!