“4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.” Psalm 55:4-5
“What can men do against such reckless hate?” Theoden, Lord of the Rings
Ten minutes before our Sunday service I was informed about the mass shooting in Orlando. I could scarcely take it in when I heard the news. It’s been a little over 24 hours now and I’m still trying to wrap my heart around the reality of what has transpired.
Like many churches around the world we took time to pray for the victims and their families, praying that the church would rise up and be a redemptive expression of Jesus’ love and healing in the midst of this tragedy. It was so powerful to hear heartfelt prayers of mourning and compassion offered on behalf of the victims in Orlando.
It likely comes as no shock to anyone to admit that the church and the LGBT community have had a strained and hurtful history. Being part of an evangelical Christian denomination, many might presume the relational rift to be even deeper. After all, aren’t evangelical Christians the ones who hate gays? Aren’t they the poster children for homophobia?
Despite what some (many?) believe, evangelical Christians genuinely love their LGBT neighbours and care about their well-being. Admittedly, this assertion is a pretty big generalization, but it’s particularly true of the Christian tribe I belong to. We have LGBT friends, co-workers, and family members. They join us to worship God on Sundays. They delve deeper into discipleship to Jesus in our small groups and bible studies. We break bread together around our tables. Yes, when trust and candor are high we find ourselves in disagreement at some pivotal theological crossroads. But even in these emotionally charged conversations we’ve seen how grace, vulnerability, and a willingness to really listen (on both sides) leads to a greater appreciation for the image of God in the other. Love is built and deepened through these conversations.
So when those whom we love are the target of terrorism, we are sorrow-full. And when those whom we love are specifically targeted because of their sexual identity, we are heartbroken. The entire situation is unfair, unjust, inhuman, and sinful. These were people who were loved by many, none more than God himself. As details about the victims become available, let’s remember that each name and face represents families torn apart, dreams brought to nothing, hearts broken, bodies maimed, and life extinguished through a vile act of hatred.
“What can men do against such reckless hate?”
I believe that through God’s love and grace, even the deepest suffering can be redeemed. But the first step into a redemptive future is genuine mourning. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” Jesus promised in Matthew 5:4. Christians are called to “mourn with those who mourn” in Romans 12:15. Mourning is the process of moving into grief and loss honestly and with utter vulnerability before God. From that posture, God can do some of his most important work in our lives. And from that posture God can redeem situations that seem to be nothing more than a testimony to the power of evil.
How do we respond to the Orlando massacre? Let’s begin by mourning, and see where that leads us. More importantly, let’s see how that forms us.
This week I invite you to join me as I mourn from a distance even while the wake of the suffering in Orlando feels close to home. I invite you to join me in praying for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. I invite you to join me in praying for his shalom to overwhelm the chaos.
May the healing that only Jesus can provide touch the lives of everyone impacted by this brutal act.