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Christian Compassion in a For/Against World

Another mass shooting takes place in the States. More innocent victims lie sprawled, dead and injured. Over the years of writing this column I have written about far too many mass shootings, and sought to provide Christian commentary on them. This time I want to let one group of Christians provide their own commentary.

American fast-food chain Chick-fil-A is famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) for being founded on Christian principles. In their 70 years they have stood over their policies of not opening on Sundays and being pro-family—even when the latter has meant boycott and hate for their lack of support for same-sex marriage.

Simplistic media-driven narratives paint them (as they do every other Christian) as narrow-minded, hate-filled bigots—re-naming them ‘Chick-fil-hAte’. Anytime they do anything that offends our easily offended culture, hash tags pop up all over the place. New York’s mayor claims they spread a message of hate.

So what happens when a gunman runs amok in a gay nightclub in Orlando in the early hours of Sunday morning?

Chick-fil-A, famous for not opening on Sundays, and vilified for its support of biblical marriage, opens up its doors on a Sunday to provide free food for those helping in the aftermath of the attack on a gay club.

Staff went to the Orlando branches and fired up the grills on Sunday. They cooked up hundreds of their famous chicken sandwiches, brewed dozens of gallons of sweet tea. Then they loaded up their vehicles and went to the shooting scene and the blood donation centre, to distribute the food to law-enforcement officials, medical personnel, and to all the people who had lined up to donate blood. All free of charge.

All I can say is well done. Chick-fil-A weren’t the only ones to provide such help, but in people’s expectations, they were perhaps the unlikeliest. Yet this is what Christian principle and compassion looks like—not the simplistic for/against attitude portrayed by the media and others. I don’t have to agree with you to care for you. Chick-fil-A gets this. Whilst the owners don’t approve of the lifestyle of many of the club goers, they recognise every one as made in the image of God, and as a neighbour to be shown compassion to.

Yet there seems to be little room in modern minds for this sort of nuance. It’s all or nothing; either I agree with you and therefore love you, or I disagree with you, and therefore must hate you. Christianity has no time, nor room, for this sort of shallow thinking. Christians owe their very salvation to a saviour who abhorred our God-rejecting ways, yet volunteered to come and show compassion to such an extent that he would even give his life to rescue the very people whose actions he loathed.

Jesus Christ teaches his followers to do the same.