This past week has been a week that was marked by tragedy. First we saw the shooting at Pulse Nightclub where 50 people were gunned down for their lifestyle choice. Shortly following that, a 2 year old was attacked and killed by an alligator. Both of these are horrific events and both for very different reasons. Both of them lives cut too short.
I hate these type of events. Yes, I mean that in the sense that they are tragedies. But also I hate these because, with the prevalence of social media and ways to broadcast our thoughts, everyone has an opinion and their opinion is magnified to a point beyond what it deserves. After the tragedies, people took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their anger and hatred. You saw the people angry at somebody. You had the people angry at the people angry at someone. Then you had the people who immediately when to push their opinion and politicize an event (follows immediately at the people upset that the event has been politicized). What’s worse is that I was very tempted to do the same thing.
That is what I don’t want to be with this post, another voice in a sea of angry people, all looking for someone to pay and for someone to suffer because of what transpired. But that isn’t what this post is. I cannot get on here and complain about the problem and not offer the solution. Furthermore, during times of tragedy, we fix our eyes on Him, the maker and creator of heaven and earth. As someone who follows Christ, the question I should be asking is how can I display the love of God to those around me. One thing I found particularly lacking is the practical exhortation given from Romans:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:15-16, NIV)
Tragedy is, unfortunately, unavoidable until Christ returns and we join Him in the new heaven and new earth. When we and those around us face tragedy, we can display our faith in three different ways.
For the events in Orlando, immediately following I saw people condemning the parents, people condemning Disney, people condemning the LGBT community, and people rushing to condemn ISIS. We rushed so quickly to the issue that we forgot that there were people involved. People, who were created in the image of God, have died. No matter what their political affiliation, life choices, or parenting styles, the loss of any human life is a tragedy. We cannot as Christians, claim that any death is okay. Someone who was created dear to God as an image bearer as has. Even beyond that, this is not the time judge a person for any decisions that they have made. Everyone is someone’s son or someone’s daughter. Someone’s friend. Someone’s mother or father. Everyone has someone who cares about them. This is not the time to spew judgment.
The parents of the 2 year old inOrlando have a lifetime to replay that moment in their mind and ask the question what they could have done different. They have a lifetime of wondering whether they are at fault. They have a lifetime of struggling through attempting to forgive themselves. Yet it is precisely this thought that stands in stark contrast to the Gospel. Where God offers forgiveness and comfort to those in need, we too can let the hand of God work through us and do likewise to those who are hurting.
Repsond With Grace
As we respond to people, remember that we are all people and we all struggle. We all experience pain, loss, and tragedy in our lives. During that time the people who have helped us the most are those who stood with us during the process. Instead of blasting the people on the internet for their choices, we show them grace during their most vulnerable time. In the same way that God showed us grace, we show grace to those who have experienced loss, despite whatever feelings we may have about the things people do.
Pray For Your Enemies
Even if you are unable to get past a person’s particular proclivities, that does not get around the fact that we should still pray for them.
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44-45, NIV).
There has been, in the past, a needless animosity between Christians and the LGBT crowd. This is a prime moment to bridge that gap and deliver the Gospel during a time a community needs to know the love of God. For those who have sworn allegiance to ISIS or rejected Christ, we should pray for them as well, for we should desire that all come to faith in Jesus rather than face the eternal consequences of others. We pray for our enemies, because at one time, we were enemies of God, and someone prayed for us. We pray for them, because, ultimately, those we disagree with are not our enemies. Our enemy is the devil himself and his spiritual forces. We pray for those whom we disagree with because we are all created in the image of God and unified by that.
Tragedy will occur in our lifetime. During that moment, as the church, we can rise up in the strength and love that God has poured out on us beyond what we are able to deserve or earn. We can display the love that God has shown us to those around us. Tragedy will strike, but our God is greater.