Americans awoke to news of the deadliest terror attack since 9/11 on the morning of June 12th after 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, killing 49 and injuring 53. In a 911 call, Mateen claimed allegiance to the Islamic State, but the investigation continues into whether he had any real ties to ISIS, was inspired by their propaganda or was motivated by his own inner turmoil. The answer to those questions perhaps matters little to the grieving loved ones of the 49 people, created in the image of God, who lost their lives.
The news was devastating and sparked immediate debate on the issues of terrorism, gun control, gay rights and religion. Like many, I looked for strong Christian voices to stand up and make sense of it. With the onslaught of social media, there was no lack of commentary. Facebook and Twitter posted live video news reports as they occurred in the days following the event. Almost immediately, politicians shamelessly pushed their agendas for gun control or combatting Islamic extremism.
Mourn with those who mourn
“After Orlando, can we still weep together?” asked Russel Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, in a web blog. “When we’re accustomed to seeing news in real time on our television screens and on our phones, it is sometimes easy to forget that the news we are viewing is real,” he wrote, calling congregations to pray together and mobilize to give blood for the victims. “Let’s realize that, in this case, our gay and lesbian neighbors are likely quite scared. Who wouldn’t be? Demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus to them. We don’t have to agree on the meaning of marriage and sexuality to love one another and to see the murderous sin of terrorism.”
That resonates with me. And there were many examples of Christian service to the victims, their families and first responders.
Employees at Chick-fil-A, which has been criticized as “anti-gay” due to president Dan Cathy’s biblical view of marriage, prepared food on Sunday morning (despite observing the Sabbath by remaining closed on Sundays) in order to provide free food to those who were donating blood for victims. “We came together as a community to lift those in need,” a spokesperson said.
This is the kind of active love Christians should be known for.
However, there is one voice, on the fringe, cruelly claiming the victims got what they deserved. That saddens me and does not represent the love of Christ. It is always a good idea to ask, What would Jesus do?
What would Jesus do?
We have one example in John 8 when Jesus was in the temple courts and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They asked Jesus, trying to trap him.
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus exemplified love, grace and truth. His compassion was magnetic. People were drawn to him.
We see it in John 11:33-35, after Lazarus, the brother of Mary, died. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled… Jesus wept.”
He also expressed love by meeting people’s physical needs. In Matthew 14, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” It was this same afternoon that he fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish.
Perhaps the greatest example Christ gave us, however, is in Romans 5:8, which reads: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
This is what Jesus would do… and did for us. He demonstrated sacrificial love and grace in truth.
It takes practice
As I looked for those Christian voices, another commentator raised a good point. “If you need the voice of Christian leaders to guide you on how to respond to this tragedy, what that really means is you need more practice in grace, truth, and love every day. You need to understand more deeply what God says about the issues, of which there are many… and you need continuing practice in loving people different from yourself,” wrote Tom Gilson, an author and ministry leader on his blog, ThinkingChristian.net. “No one gets it right all the time,” he added. “What I’ve observed, however, is that those who do it best in the very trying times are those who have practiced it in the ordinary and everyday struggles of life.”