First Things: Love

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In the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, love has been exposed and it triumphs over hate.

The tragedy reminded us that there is a community of human beings who have had to hide their love for too long. And that we all bear responsibility for forcing it into hiding.

Yet love persevered despite our opposition, thanks to the efforts of people who continue to work hard to help others understand that love cannot be confined to a simple definition.

One such person was a young man, Drew Leinonen, a recently identified victim of the massacre. In the 36 hours that elapsed between the shooting and his identification, his mother was featured in media reports where she explained that her son founded the gay-straight alliance at his high school–something she was very proud of him for. Her love for her son was primal and universally human. Most who saw her pleading, totally distraught and dazed by desperation, cried with her and for her.

Like many others, I had the urge to reach through the screen and hug her. I wish I could tell her that everything will be ok, even though it’s not. It will never be ok that anyone dies because of who they love. It will never be ok that a terrorist opens fire in a crowd of fellow human beings. It will never be ok that we live in a faulty system that perpetuates this behavior, yet do nothing to change it. A hug will not make it ok but it is a reminder that love will win, even though there will be casualties.

And there is evidence to support that claim. People are lining up to donate blood. They are speaking out against hatred of any kind, and supporting the LGBTQ community in various ways. Some are joining organizations that work to prevent gun violence. Then there are friends and strangers standing vigil next to those who wait in hospitals and holding those who grieve. Others are praying for the strength and direction to be the change that the world needs.

It could be said that love is the primary source from which all other things flow. It is the first principle, upon which everything else rests. In his letter to the community at Corinth, Paul describes it as such. “For if I […] understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (1 Cor 13:2).” We are nothing without love.

When it is exposed as the core of all else, love is vulnerable to the elements all around. But it can bear all things and it has no end. It strong and resilient. And it is the only way forward when unanswerable questions linger and suffering abounds. Let us mourn, grieve, feel angry, shocked, and be moved to justice. But let us do all of these things in love.