This has been a difficult week.
In Boston, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, Sean Collier, and eight-year-old Martin Richard were all killed in a heinous crime spree.
In West, Texas, 14 people were killed. Most of them first responders and firefighters, just like my dad.
We mourn and hurt for those killed. We long for justice to take the place of the injustice of lives cut short. Who are we to be in such times? What are we to do? What about them?
Two men in Boston are victims, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokar Tsarnaev. These guys killed multiple people and injured hundreds more. They have shattered the stability of tons of people. How are we to view them? These men are victims of a fundamentalism that taught them the way to spread their ideas was to kill. They are victims of the sway of evil and intolerance. They are also perpetrators of a heinous crime.
In West, Texas, West Fertilizer Company reportedly stored an otherworldly amount of ammonium nitrate. I will put it to you this way, I read in the news that the maximum amount of ammonium nitrate, without a consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, is 400lbs. The news media is reporting that West Fertilizer Company had 270 tons on hand. For those who are not good at math, that is close to 1,350 times more than what they were supposed to have. These folks got greedy and now people are dead. How do we view West Fertilizer Company? West Fertilizer Company is a victim of its own greed. Unfortunately, the company thought the way to make a dollar was to endanger the lives of everyone around them. This company is the perpetrator of a heinous crime.
This congregation knows a thing or two about injustice and oppression. We have people in this room who are victims of hate crimes. We have people in this room who have endured oppression based on their sexuality, marital status, race, identity, and on and on. If you want to know about injustice, start talking to each other.
So what are we to do about injustice? How do we resurrect justice?
It all begins with love.
In fact, all queer things begin with love. Love is the glue that holds us together. Love is the only thing able to make us whole. Love is love.
One of the queerest things about Jesus was whom Jesus decided to love. Sound familiar?
In John 8, the religious folk of the time, the traditionalists, brought a woman that was caught in adultery to Jesus. These traditionalists are not all that different from those meeting in the traditional Baptist, Methodist, Bible, Episcopal, Lutheran, and other Christian congregations all over town this morning. I know that many of you have been the woman caught in adultery in these and other spaces of worship. Well the traditionalists of Jesus’ time were following the law. The law stated that this woman was to be killed. She was caught in the very act of adultery. The evidence was there. She was guilty. Now what did that old queer we love do, Jesus lunged to be down in the dirt with her. Loving someone and acting out a just ethic of love often means getting dirty. Jesus looked up at those traditionalists and silently declared, ‘If you are going to kill her then you are going to have to kill me.’ Then, he loudly and audibly declared, “Whoever is without sin can go ahead and cast the first stone.” For the Queer, love is the first order of business. Love is always siding with the marginalized and oppressed.
The woman was being mistreated and Jesus pursues justice by placing the body of Jesus between the oppressee and the oppressor.
This situation is also an act of love toward the oppressors. This is another queer aspect of the life of Christ. Jesus loves the oppressor as well as the oppressed. By defending the woman, Jesus is telling the oppressors what justice looks like. Jesus is asking the oppressors to allow their capacity for love to replace their capacity for hate.
There are other times where we are simply called to love the oppressor even when we can’t correct them.
Jesus was beaten, crowned with thorns, whipped, spit upon, made fun of, humiliated, marched through the streets bloody and bruised, and simply treated like shit. Jesus was the victim of a hate crime. In the midst of the crime, upon the cross, Jesus looked down and asked for forgiveness for all of the people who did these things. “Forgive them for they know not what they do…”
How queer is that?
Being the queer that we are called to be begins with love. We must love the oppressed and love the oppressor. It is not enough to simply to love the victims we must love the perpetrator. The justice that is from God cannot exist until we are prepared to love both sides.
I want to share my translation of some verses with you:
Matthew 5:44: “Love those you want to hate, those you call your enemy. Pray for those who have hated, oppressed, or gaybashed you.”
Matthew 18:22: “What does pure and undefiled forgiveness look like? Forgiving seventy times the seven times you think you are supposed to. Forgive until you can’t forgive anymore and then forgive again.”
Mark 12:30-31: “Love God with all that you are, including your heart, mind, body, soul, and all your strength. Love everyone you come in contact with like you would your self.”
Luke 6:29: “If someone knocks the shit out of you on one cheek, then turn your head and let them knock the shit out of you again.”
You can’t love and hate at the same time. It is impossible. What side do you want to stand on?
You can’t love your neighbor when you can’t stand the sight of them. What does it look like to bring those we hate to the table of love?
You can’t hold a gun and love your neighbor. Violence is the antithetical action of love. What does it look like to put down our weapons?
If humanity is to survive, we must learn to love. If we as a church are going to lead our community, we must learn to love. It all begins with love.
I forgive Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
I forgive Dzhokar Tsarnaev.
I forgive West Fertilizer Co.
I forgive the Denton City Council and all other governmental bodies for not fighting harder for the rights of queer folk.
Justice is found in the restoration of forgiveness.
If we don’t forgive these aforementioned people then we will have to carry too much through life and be ill prepared for the next struggle. You can’t reach your hand out to help people when your arms are full of hate. I want to love my enemies so that I don’t have to carry the heavy burden of hate around. Forgiveness makes us free.
Resurrecting justice is learning how to love the oppressed and forgive the oppressor, to drop off the hate and embrace the love, and to realize that forgiveness is the only path that will bring about wholeness.
We cannot resurrect justice until we free ourselves for the struggle.
Who do you need to forgive?
Who needs your love?