How Should Christians Respond to the Tragedy in Orlando?

As I heard about the disgusting and outrageous tragedy this morning, at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, my heart sank, and I began to weep – 50 dead and 53 injured. This mass shooting is the deadliest in United States history.  The shooter has been identified as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen and officials have identified it as a terrorist attack. As I am sitting here with my family, listening and watching the reports come in, I am asking: How should Christians respond to this tragedy?

Whereas the Pulse is one of the best known and more popular gay bars in Orlando, I can’t help but believe the heart of God is hemorrhaging today. I believe He is experiencing visceral pain and a deep aching over the loss of lives in Orlando. The victims were image-bearers, and I am saddened. This shooting is an unspeakable and horrible tragedy that was carried out by a man with a desperately wicked heart. As followers of Jesus, how should we respond?

First, we should acknowledge our hurt, perplexity, and confusion to God. I wish I better understood why a good and all-powerful God allow things like this to happen. I am troubled, and I cannot find words to describe my heartache. Like David, in Psalm 77:7-9, we can ask character questions of God:

Has the Lord rejected us forever?  
Will he never again be kind to us?  
Is his unfailing love gone forever? 
Have his promises permanently failed?
Has God forgotten how to be gracious?
Has he slammed the door on his compassion?  

These types of questions are not questions of unbelief, but a desire for explanation in the midst of perplexity. God will not get angry with us or spurn us for asking questions. His shoulders are broad, and he invites us to lament and bring our doubts and confusion to him. He already knows that this type of tragedy crushes our hope and leaves our faith staggering like a boxer who has been pummeled by his opponent. So, we might as well cry out to him and tell him about the pain and perplexity we’re feeling. It’s a cathartic and healthy process.

Second, we should grieve, mourn and lament with families who have lost sons and daughters. Just as the Father is grieving and mourning this loss, we too should grieve and cry over this tragedy. If our hearts are hardened, we should ask the Father to break them and fill them up with grace and compassion.  If we have a gay family member, neighbor, co-worker, we need to sit with them, grieve with them, weep with them, and pray with them. They are hurting and probably fearful, but they are our neighbors, and Jesus has called us to love all our neighbors (Mark 12:31).

Third, we should pray for our Father to sustain the families of the victims, the LGBT community, and the entire city of Orlando (Psalm 55:22). They are brokenhearted, and we have an opportunity and responsibility to pray, asking our Father to come near. As we pray, we can be an answer to our prayers by coming near to the gay community. Also, let’s pray for people to respond to the good news of the gospel. These kinds of incidents should move us to ask eternal questions. Let’s pray that people’s hearts will be turned to a loving Father, who sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to bring redemption.

Fourth, we should believe that our Father can get the glory and bring good out of this tragic experience. If he can take the ugliness of Jesus’ passion and death on the cross and bring glory to himself and salvation for humanity, then he can take the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and bring about redemption. I don’t know how and when, but I have decided to fill the gap – between tragedy and redemption – with trust.

Fifth, we should not judge all Muslims by the act of one radical and deranged man. As I have listened and watched the news reports pour in, every genuine Muslim has denounced the actions and any associations with Omar Mir Seddique Mateen. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and decry violence. We may not believe the same thing, but we can and should interact with our Muslim neighbors with grace and honor. Not only should we not prejudge Muslims, we should stand against all prejudices – ethnic hatred, racism, terrorism, and extremism of any kind (James 2:1-12).

Sixth, we should check our hearts for anger, pride, self-righteousness and judgmentalism. The heart is evil and desperately wicked. No one can fully know it. Sometimes, I forget how evil sin is – in our world and my life (Mark 7:21-22). Our response to the Holy Spirit revealing evil and sin to us is to repent and submit our lives afresh to the supremacy and preeminence of Jesus.

Seventh, we should reject fear and walk in faith. Though Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS, there is no evidence to tie him to the radical group. If this is the case, then we have a “lone wolf,” and I believe this is what frightens us most. When fear comes, let’s continue to rehearse these words:

God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Psalm 46:1-3

May this tragedy cause us to pray for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We can bring UP THERE DOWN HERE as we lead with love under the banner of the Lordship of Christ.

 

 

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  • I appreciate the your efforts encouraging kindness and mercy toward the victim’s families. I am troubled however, by your lack of understanding of the “Islamic faith” (which is actually a political ideology cloaked in religious garb to make it seem more palatable to others.) Was the killer deranged? Yes. Though there was no obvious connection to “ISIS”; there was however, a direct link to Islamism – the very convention that vows to completely destroy the Jew, Israel and all Christians if and when “worldwide Jihad” is declared by their coming “savior”. Yes, I am saddened by the deaths (and eternal separation) of those whom were murdered. Death is a harsh teacher. What I am praying for are for those whom have been flaunting their hedonism before the eyes of a graceful God – will stop and ask, “Why did I live when others did not?” To those God declared, “If they will seek Me, they will find Me.” That’s what I am praying for.

    • Kristin S

      What direct link to Islam? Every account by people who knew Mateen have stated that he was not a religious man. He had no ties to ISIS and his claim of allegiance is nothing more than just that, a claim. This was a hate crime more than a terrorist act. It would not even be considered a terrorist act if the shooter was white or black or anything other than of Middle-Eastern descent. He was born here and has spent his life in a society where the Christian right has been pushing their anti-LGBT agenda for the entirety of his life. That is an agenda that has been more harmful to our country as a whole than any terrorism. Look at the statistics of how many have been killed for being LGBT. Look at the statistics of how many LGBT suicides there have been in the last 30 years. Yet I don’t see a call for the rest of the Christians to denounce that stance or take a stand against the hateful bigotry of the Christian right. Why is that? Why is it Muslims who should be expected to denounce the extremists every time something happens that it deemed terrorism? Do you apologize for your fellow Christians when a new anti-LGBT bill is proposed? Do you denounce your fellow Christians when an LGBT person is attacked or killed for their sexual orientation or gender identity? If you say no, then tell me…why the double standard?

    • Marvin Williams

      William, thanks for dropping by and reading my two fish and five loaves. I am appreciative and grateful. I understand and agree with what you are saying regarding Islamism. I think we must make the distinction between Islam and Islamism. The former is the religion, and latter is an ideology of extremism, by which Mateen was ISIS is driven. Here is the question I am asking and the point to which I alluded in my post: Do you lump all Muslims in the Islamism category? I don’t believe you would. I believe many, if not most Muslims would denounce Islamism. At least, the faithful adherents I know, distance themselves from this ideology. This would be like you and I lumping every conservative, gospel believing follower of Jesus in the Westboro Baptist Church camp? This would mean that every Christian is a tightly wound ball of hatred. I think you and I would both agree that we do not want to be associated with the likes of Westboro. Regarding jihad, I get your point. I believe Islamism has hijacked the term and made it violent and ugly and deadly. As you are aware, the meaning of jihad is struggle and striving. The context of this word, most Muslims would tell you, is striving and struggle to be a good Muslim, internally. According to the Koran, jihad as violence and force are very very rarely associated with Islam. Islamic extremist and fundamentalists have made it the religion itself. This is what we fight against. I, too, pray that men and women, homosexual or straight, would repent and come to know Jesus as Lord, Leader and forgiver of their lives. This incident has caused me to let the Spirit scour my own life and see where I am not submitted to Christ the King. Again, William, that you would drop by, read and comment on this post, is humbling. I am grateful. Blessings on you, brother.

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