21 Jun “Responding with Light and Healing” by Jim Ricci
Well, it happened again! In the dark hours of Sunday morning June 12th some 50 people were killed and another 53 were injured in a terror attack in a gay nightclub in Orlando. President Obama has called it an “act of terror and an act of hate,” and it’s being described as the most deadly shooting in American history. The news of such violent atrocities comes to us so regularly nowadays that we may feel numb, helpless to know what to do or say after such events. But as followers of Christ we can’t simply shut out the pain and despair. We must bring light and healing. Therefore, these horrible events of recent years have targeted a wide variety of people: military personnel, movie-goers, elementary school children, and now patrons of a gay nightclub. Christ followers know that all people have dignity because they are made in the image of God. The death of any leads to mourning, whether they were targeted at random or not.
How should we mourn? Let’s consider the following:
No matter how frequently such tragedies occur, our first response should always be the same: turning to God in prayer. We should pray for strength, wisdom, guidance, perspective, unity, tolerance, and healing both physically and spiritually.
In the wake of mass violence, a common pattern is emerging among tech-literate, socially connected Christians. Rather than hearing the facts from reputable news stations and turning to God, we turn first to social media. Why? Too often, we’re actually looking to revel in the partisan divide. Even without looking we know the various angles that will be played out (e.g., gun control, mental illness, the violence of Islam) and many want to jump into the fray to join their “team.” Many rush to the computer to vent their frustrations rather than turn to God and to each other to express our grief.
As Christians we are called to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). Yet in times of tragedy we may be tempted instead to try to explain and justify rather than to simply be silent and grieve with those who are grieving.
The death of any human should lead to mourning, whether they were the victims or the perpetrators. Loving those who are different is not easy. It’s a sacrifice, but Jesus did it for us. When he came to rescue us, we were all lost in sin. We were “risky” for him, even to the point of crucifixion. Yet he entered into a world filled with filth, and willingly laid down his life in love. This is how we share Christ with those desperate for saving grace.
Christians should be the most realistic people on Earth. While we may support certain policies and solutions that we believe can foster peace, we must always be quick to admit that the root cause of violence and hate is sin. First and foremost an event like this is a heart-wrenching reminder of the devastatingly painful and absolutely brutal result of sin. The basic answer to the question as to why the trigger was pulled once, never mind 40 to 50 times, is a rebellion from and a hatred of God. At its most fundamental sense this tragedy is rooted in a rebellion from God. The fact that people had to die in this Orlando nightclub is a testimony to the vicious recourse of sin. The Scripture is clear that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Death is the sword of sin; it cuts deep and far, and spares none.
People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed. We probably don’t need to be instructed about how to react. We know what to do. We’ve faced this situation before and will face it again all too soon. We just need to be reminded of our call to muster the courage and respond in a way that brings honor and glory to our Savior Jesus Christ.
(Jim Ricci was the Associative Pastor and Care and Counseling Pastor at Cranston Christian Fellowship in Rhode Island from 1989 to 2017. He is now the Executive Director at Aletheia Counseling Ministries in Warwick, RI.)