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Well, I’m back! Literally.

It’s been about two weeks since my last post and for good reason: during that time I’ve been to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series and just recently returned from Montego Bay, Jamaica, where Tonya and I led a team of seventeen teenagers from Mountainview on a mission trip to Robin’s Nest — a children’s home we help sponsor. At the end of this week, I will travel with our daughter, Hope, to Opportunity Camp near San Jose to work with kids in the social services system.

While in the Montego Bay airport awaiting our flight to Houston, we watched the breaking coverage of the tragedy in Orlando. I’m still watching.

Needless to say, I have many thoughts swirling around in my head.

The phrase that keeps popping up is this: “in the image of God.” As a Christ-follower, I believe that every person is made in the image of God. That doesn’t mean I agree with every decision, opinion, or philosophy that every person holds (over 46 years I have often disagreed with the one person I know best — myself). It does mean that I believe every life has value, deserves dignity, and should be protected because I believe that life was created by God.

At the Women’s College World Series, I loved watching female athletes compete with the same level of skill and enthusiasm as male athletes. I cherish the fact that my two daughters will have opportunities open to them that my mother and grandmothers never dreamed of.

Robin’s Nest in Jamaica is a children’s home with approximately 30 children, ranging from babies through early adolescent. They truly are serving “the least of these,” as Jesus would say. For many of these children, Robin’s Nest is the only home they have ever known — a place where they are fed, nurtured, and loved by Christian men and women who care for them as if they were their own. They are shown by word and deed that God loves them.

As of this writing, 49 people were murdered and many more injured in a nightclub in Orlando. It was a gay nightclub and the shooter was a radicalized Muslim. My tribe is the conservative, evangelical stream of Christianity. The most theological advice I could give my Christian friends might be: “Don’t say anything stupid.” Express sorrow, offer help, work towards solutions. This isn’t God’s judgment on anything other than humanity’s inability to love those who are different from them.

Next week, I will work alongside Christ-followers from across the country as we serve over 100 kids who are in the social services system. These are kids in group homes, foster homes, or receiving government assistance of some sort. These are kids who come from broken homes or just plain difficult circumstances. Many of them have never had anyone say to them, “Your life matters.” They will hear that in a hundred different ways next week.

As a Christian, either I believe every person is made in the image of God or I don’t. It doesn’t matter if the person is gay or straight, black or white, male or female, American or Jamaican. This isn’t about condemning or condoning any belief or behavior — it’s about affirming the basic dignity and value of all people. There is a time and place to express differences and stand for convictions. But if those conversations aren’t built on the foundation of every life matters, then those conversations will always sound hollow and cause harm.

May you see each and every person you encounter — in person or online — as a person who bears the image of God.