It was Sunday – one of the greatest mass shooting in U.S. history had happened in the middle of the night at a nightclub in Orlando. We were in church when we found out, and all we knew was there were fifty people dead.
A murky mix of facts and theories trickled in throughout the day – it was a gay nightclub, it was a hate crime, it was terrorism, it was a lone wolf wolf attack, it was a gun control issue – all of which tended to lead to anger directed at someone – at the president, the Muslims, the Christians, the republicans, the democrats, the media, and on and on.
The truth is we are simply horrified by what happened, and if we’re honest, we are scared too. Scared that next time something like this happens, one of our nearest and dearest will be there. Perhaps we used to feel safe and now we don’t anymore. Perhaps we are grieving and all our energy is going into learning to live without the one we lost.
Many are looking for someone to be angry with because anger is so much easier than grief.
What does it look like to cling to the gospel in such times? A letter that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote to his son is worth quoting at length here:
I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days – quite apart from the torture, pain, death, bereavement, injustice. If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapour, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens! And the products of it all will be mainly evil – historically considered. But the historical version, is, of course, not the only one. All things and deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their ’causes’ and ‘effects.’ No man can estimate what is really happening…
All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labours with vast power and perpetual success – in vain: preparing always the soil for unexpected good to sprout in. So it is in general and so it is in our lives… But there is still some hope that things may be better for us, even on the temporal plane, in the mercy of God. And though we need all our natural human courage and guts (the vast sum of human courage and endurance is stupendous, isn’t it?) and all our religious faith to face the evil that may befall us… Still we may pray and hope. I do.
This I think is the thing to hold on to in times like this. “All we do know… Is that evil labours with vast power and perpetual success – in vain.” In vain!
This is the hope of Christianity. This is the good news. We are told to expect great hardship and sorrow on this side of eternity. But we know that while evil is strong and often prevails, Jesus Christ is stronger. Resurrection follows death. And if our times our dark, we can take comfort that they may not always be so.
Let us try to cultivate this response in our hearts, and then let us respond to this tragedy as Christ would.
Here are three things we must do:
Pray. Prayer is perhaps our most powerful resource. Amazingly, we often under-value this resource. But God asks us to pray. I guarantee you every man or woman of great faith and deeds you have ever looked up to was a person of many prayers. Bend your knees and your heart before the lord. Pray for comfort for the grieving. Pray for healing for the wounded. Pray for light in the darkness.
Be the church. Do not let blame or politics or anger divide you from your fellow believers. The church is the body of Christ and his body is so needed in these times. Come together with your local body to pray, to grieve, and to seek ways to help those in need.
Love with action. Do you live in or near Orlando? Give blood – that is a huge need right now as wounded victims are being treated. Can you give financially? There are several campaigns raising money to support the families who lost loved ones and to help cover the medical bills of those who are injured.
And do not lose heart. We know the truth and we know that while we await Christ’s return with eager hearts the world is rent in two.
Now is the time for Love, Compassion, and Action, and that is the work we must set our hearts and hands to do.