THE BLOG
06/28/2016 05:27 pm ET Updated Jun 29, 2017

From Charleston to Orlando: Love Has No Boundaries

The first anniversary of the Charleston massacre by a White supremacist, Dylann Roof, occurred at the same time as the largest mass shooting in America in Orlando targeting LGBTQ people. Charleston forced Americans to honestly address an essential question. Just how far have we come in racial healing some 50 years after the 1963 March on Washington, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act? But for many Christian Americans, Orlando raises a different question. How you do stand in opposition to hate crimes against LGBTQ people and still support traditional marriage based on your faith? Jim Wallace, a Christian social justice champion, wrote recently, "It is important for Christians, evangelical Christians in particular, to stand up for the safety, humanity, and dignity of LBGTQ people -- human beings bearing the image of God." As an African American clergy leader, strongly committed to marriage been one man and one woman, I agree with Wallis.

Too much blood being shed today. . .

There is simply too much blood being shed today against people for the way the look, their faith, lifestyles, zip codes, and socio-economic levels. The paradox is that according to the Gallup poll, Americans overwhelmingly believe in God, and the primary attribute of God is love. The greatest command of sacred scripture is to "love God and every neighbor" as oneself without exception or boundaries. Neither is there a limit or boundary to the reality that every person born, is created in the image of God, ("imago dei"). This means that all life has value. No exceptions!

The elephant in the room concerning American race relations. . .

Charleston is a painful reminder of the elephant in the room concerning contemporary American race relations. Many White Americans, including White Christians, grew up in a nation that has never seen Black Americans as fully human, and certainly not equal to White Americans. Singing "We Shall Overcome" in diverse racial settings, celebrating Black History Month, Martin Luther King's Holiday, or even having an African American President, has not changed this unspoken truth. As an African American evangelical, it is especially troubling that 40% of White evangelicals today support a presidential candidate who is unashamedly racist and unabashedly bigoted against just about every group, including Americans of color. No doubt, this is evidence of the lingering impact of far too many Christians embracing slavery, opposing civil rights for African Americans, and standing solidly against immigration.

The nation's shifting tide against those who believe in traditional marriage. . .

Orlando also forces us to remember the biblical call to love unconditionally. Yet, the challenge for many Christians is the nation's shifting tide against those who believe in traditional marriage based purely on their faith and not out of any hatred toward LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court decision affirming the right for LGBTQ people to marry, aggressively embraced by President Barack Obama, countless celebrities, and even some conservative politicians, has totally shifted the atmosphere. Today those inspired by their faith to support traditional marriage are universally castigated and attacked as homophobic, bigots, or worse. This is as wrong as hate-filled attacks on LGBTQ people! How can we claim to be a democracy rooted in the constitutional exercise of religious freedom and at the same time ridicule and name-call those who exercise that very freedom? People have a right to act according to their faith as long as they are not endangering the life of another. No one has the right to commit violence against people because of their lifestyle, and certainly, no one has the right to judge. Pope Francis was right when he said , "Who am I to judge?" The Pope made this bold exhortation without changing his support of traditional marriage. He made it knowing that judgment is sin because we are all utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us. And, he made it because he knows that the healing power of love has no boundaries.

We are called to the biblical standard of love for every person. . .

The Biblical mandate to love God and our neighbors as ourselves means loving every person the way God loves each of us, just as we are, while calling us all to a higher standard of righteousness. This kind of unconditional "agape" love, championed and modeled by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also means I do not have to agree with your lifestyle to love you the way God loves you. If this belief is not respected, then the constitutional right to religious freedom is truly endangered. Jesus extended love to people whose lifestyles he surely did not embrace, whether a rich man, Zacchaeus, who exploited the poor, the woman caught in adultery, the unmarried Samaritan woman at the well who had many lovers, or the winebibbers and prostitutes with whom he dined. Transformation in their lives came not from judgment but from God-inspired love. To be a follower of Jesus means more than reciting what Jesus said. It means doing what Jesus did. The horrors of both Charleston and Orlando teaches us that anything short of seeing and valuing others as God sees and values them, does not portend well for America's future. We can all do better.