This Sunday morning began just like any other. I woke up, got a cup of coffee, made waffles (because Leslie Knope), and sat down with a book. Then, just like that, everything changed. I began getting notifications on my phone that friends in Orlando, Florida were checking in that they were safe. Safe from what? I thought to myself. I opened my phone and began to read the story of 50 lives being taken from this world in the span of one evening.
50 sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, aunts, brothers- all people who would be missing from the table this Thanksgiving. And every Thanksgiving after that. 50 people who represent 50 families whose lives are forever altered. People who will never have the chance to watch their kids graduate college, hug their friends again, or enjoy another sunset.
I don’t typically have a strong, emotional reaction to terrible events. Sure, my heart aches, and I hurt for those who are hurting, but this was different. I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed, tears streaming down my face, unable to get control of myself. The names and faces of every LGBT person I’ve ever known flashed through my mind. People, especially my brother, I can’t imagine not having at the table.
I’m tempted in situation like this to ask why. Why would someone choose to kill 50 innocent people because they have a lifestyle you don’t agree with? I didn’t do that this time because I felt like I already know the answer. Because fear and hatred are very much alive in this world. Because people fear what they don’t understand. They hate what doesn’t line up with their own beliefs, and it’s easier to not have to deal with it all.
It’s easier to say someone shouldn’t live a certain way than it is to love them.
It’s easier to hate what scares us than it is to have them over for dinner.
It’s easier to keep people at arm’s length than it is to know their name, their story.
I’m not going to make an argument for gay rights here, but I am going to make an argument for love. Loving those around us the way that Jesus would looks the same no matter their race, their religious beliefs, or their sexual orientation. It looks like learning their name and hearing their story, and yes, even inviting them into our lives on a regular basis.
It looks like dinners and coffee dates and road trips and weekend brunch. It looks like setting aside our differences and meeting people where they’re at.