This past Sunday I came home from church to learn about the horrific massacre in Orlando that had happened overnight. I was sickened by the news of 49 people murdered and 53 injured, by a man who was fueled by the religious ideology of radical Islam and his own hatred of gays.
I was also saddened to see how quickly this tragic event was politicized. At a time when we should have been weeping as a nation, many seized the platform this event provided to debate gun control and foreign policy, and take verbal jabs at their social and political opponents. Those jabs started coming from both the left and the right within hours. Some of these debates will need to happen in their proper time. But when people feel the need to score one for their team while the parents of the victims are still waiting to find out if their sons and daughters are dead or alive, something is terribly wrong—and inhumane—with that response.
As Christians we are called to respond in a way that reflects not the polarization of our culture, but the hope and compassion of the Gospel. So what should that response be? While I don’t have a comprehensive answer, four words come to mind.
Mourn. We should weep with those who weep. We should mourn over the pain and devastation caused by this act of wickedness. So many people are in a world of hurt right now. Empathy, not polarization, reflects the compassionate heart of our Savior.
Pray. The pain and confusion of such an event should drive us to our knees. Let’s pray for the families who’ve lost loved ones. Let’s pray for the physical healing of the injured. Let’s pray for the deeper healing in our nation that only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring.
Refrain. Let’s also pray for the self-control to refrain from responding to the many things we are hearing in conversation and over social media. Some have already shifted the blame for this toward evangelical Christians. Many will make statements that we disagree with. Let’s keep calm, carry on, and let it go. Responding to every opposing view on twitter or facebook will not make Christ beautiful in the midst of this tragedy.
Love. Most of us are not in a position to directly help the victim’s families. But we are in a position to love our neighbors, friends, co-workers and families. Some of these may be part of the LGBT community, who will need to be reminded that we love them and mourn with them over the Orlando attack.
Let’s remember that the truth of God’s Word was not changed by this event. Only if we truly believe that God is sovereign and His truth does not waver can we remain calm and respond with the love and compassion that are appropriate. It is when we fail to believe this that we end up leveraging tragedy to our ideological advantage. We can love like Christ only if our hope is firmly rooted in Christ.
Lastly, let me share both a helpful response from Russell Moore and a helpful prayer from pastor Scotty Smith, that I hope will minister to you as you seek to process this tragedy in the days ahead.