In Luke 13, Jesus tells a parable about a man who owned a vineyard. In that vineyard was a fig tree that for three years bore no fruit. The man said to his hired vinedresser, “Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down” (Luke 13:7). The vinedresser said to the owner, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down” (Luke 13:8-9).
Early Sunday morning a gunman walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando and murdered 49 people. More than 50 more are wounded and hurting. The deadliest mass shooting in American history. I cannot imagine the horror. Regardless of what we may think of that sort of club, I do not believe it is a stretch to say these people were just out trying to have fun. I doubt any of the people murdered gave any thought to the reality that they were living their last few moments on this earth. Go out to have a good time, hear some gunshots, experience a few moments of absolute terror, then find yourself facing your Creator, spiritually prepared or not.
Turn on the news or go to your favorite news website and you will likely find a whole bunch of anger over who is politicizing this tragedy and who is to blame and who could have stopped this horror and who cares more about the victims than anybody else; you’ll hear talk of ISIS and “LGBT-hating conservatives,” and gun control. You’ll hear pundits upset that our national leaders won’t use certain words like “radical Islam,” and you’ll hear other pundits explain why the leaders shouldn’t. We rush to blame and to make political or cultural hay and to paint those who disagree with us as evil people. And 49 precious, made-in-the-image-of-God people are dead, their lives cut shockingly short. And more than that number are hurting. Families are paralyzed by grief, realizing they will never see their loved ones again.
To the very core of my being I disagree with the gay movement in this country over our views of marriage and sexuality and sin. The Apostle Paul says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). You know what? I believe Paul. Bad news for unrepentant homosexuals in gay nightclubs. And bad news for unrepentant husbands who cheat on their wives. And bad news for everybody who is greedy and unrepentant. And bad news for people who revile other people and are unrepentant. And bad news for everybody who is unrighteous and is not repentant.
Guess what………you may not be dancing at 2:00 a.m. in a gay nightclub, but you can’t make it through Paul’s list without stumbling over one of those categories. If you aren’t gay, perhaps you’ve cheated on your spouse. If you haven’t done that, perhaps you’re greedy. If you aren’t greedy, maybe you revile other people because they hold political or social or moral views that are opposed to yours. If you aren’t a reviler, you are at least unrighteous. I know this because of something else the Apostle Paul said: “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). We ALL fail Paul’s list. Every one of us.
Those of us who want to look and live and love like Jesus ought not get caught up in the yelling and hating and haranguing that always seem to follow tragic events. There are plenty of shrill, angry, hateful, mean, idiotic voices out there – don’t let yours be one of them. Let the choir of hate sing away. You just stay in your seat and sing a different song – a song of rejoicing that in spite of tragedies and terror, we serve a sovereign, good God who is still in control. Sing praise that God has provided a Savior who can rescue the sexually immoral, the adulterers, the greedy, the idolaters, the revilers, the swindlers, and even the unrighteous. If you are safely in the arms of Christ, sing praise to God that he has granted to you the gift of repentance and a new heart that hears the gospel of Jesus Christ and believes it.
Jesus told the parable of the vineyard owner and fruitless fig tree right after he explained to people that they don’t have to look outside of themselves to find the worst sinners (Luke 13:1-5). If you want to see what the sorriest, most sinful wretch looks like, look in your bathroom mirror. He or she will be standing right there, staring back at you. Then if you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, close your eyes for a second or two. Think about the grace of God and the beauty of his forgiveness in Christ. Then open your eyes, and you will see a beautiful, washed-in-the-blood-of-the-Lamb human being wearing a robe of righteousness given by Jesus. You will see a son or daughter of the Most High who has been promised an incredible inheritance of glory – eternal life that is satisfying and filled with joy and too wonderful to even imagine.
When you hear about horrors like the nightclub shooting in Orlando, stop yourself from thinking “well, I guess those sinners got what they deserved.” And stop yourself from getting angry because the media and politicians and certain groups of the population are saying things that you know to be wrong or believe to be stupid or are so filled with hate that they almost hurt to hear. Pilate killed a bunch of Galileans in the temple in Jerusalem. Had them slaughtered in cold blood. Some people thought those Galileans were getting what they deserved. But Jesus told a crowd, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3).
Those precious souls who died in that nightclub may have lived a lifestyle you believe to be wrong; they may have had views on marriage and sexuality you know to be unbiblical. But they are not the enemy. The enemy is that great Serpent who has deceived them and blinded their eyes. They were somebody’s son or daughter or friend or neighbor. I don’t know if any of them believed the gospel or not, but I do know not one of them was beyond the saving grace of Jesus if they had just turned to him in repentance and faith. Pray for their families. Pray for our leaders and law enforcement as they deal with this horror. Remember that even if leaders and politicians and cultural groups say and do things you believe to be wrong, they all want to end this kind of senseless tragedy. We may not agree on the “how,” but we all want it to end.
And end it shall. Because there is a King who reigns now invisibly, but who will one day rule the universe in a visible, powerful way, for all to see. He has crushed the head of that ancient Serpent, and he stands ready to forgive all those who come to him. When you think about that nightclub, pray, pray, pray. Grieve for the loss and the heartache. Pray that many will come to Christ because of this horror. And look to yourself – do not be that fruitless fig tree the vineyard owner wants to cut down. Heed the words of Jesus in Matthew 3:8 – bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Paul tells us in Galatians 5 what that fruit is – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The time to bear fruit is now. Right now. The world is starving for fruit.