We woke up to shocking news Sunday: a man had entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in the early morning hours and began shooting.
When the carnage ended, 49 innocents were dead, plus the gunman. An additional 53 were wounded.
We’re now learning about the people who were murdered. There’s Edward Sotomayor, Jr., who loved wearing black hats, and 20-year-old Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, who was among the youngest of the victims.
Kimberly Morris had recently moved to Florida to help her mom and grandmother.
And Eddie Jamoldroy Justice had sent text messages to his mom as evil unfolded around him. “Mommy I love you,” he texted her. “They shooting… I’m gonna die.”
As a father, I can’t imagine the despair of receiving a message like that – and having to wait until the next day to definitively learn my son was among the dead.
Every life lost in Orlando was precious, sacred and loved by the God who created them, as are the loved ones they left behind.
As Christians, that’s a simple truth we can and should affirm – especially because in the aftermath of this unspeakable tragedy, the world is watching us. How will we respond?
I would hope our response would be characterized by three things.
The headline in The Washington Times is jarring: “LGBT activists blame Christians for Orlando attack.”
The desire to “hit back” at this lie is understandable – but compassion means we must understand how deeply our LGBT neighbors are hurting right now. Angry and hurt people will often say horrible things.
Our response to these accusations must be compassionate, loving and grace-filled. Instead of getting caught up in the attacks, let’s care about the pain people are experiencing.
Let’s continue to focus on the men and women connected to this tragedy: the survivors, families, and the men and women in law enforcement and in area hospitals. All of them need our support.
And even as they might lash out, our LGBT neighbors need to know we’re mourning with them. The Bible says we’re to “weep with those who weep.” Many of us may know someone who is experiencing personal pain over what happened – please, reach out and comfort them.
Every person on this earth has been created in the image of God. That’s why I agree with my friend, Dr. Al Mohler, when he called the Orlando terror attack “an assault on the image of God in every human being.”
That’s why what happened in Orlando was wrong – period.
I hope Christians everywhere will be unequivocal in sharing both of these truths.
This is an opportunity for the Church and for individual Christians to love like Jesus loves. And since love is a verb, where possible our demonstration should go beyond words.
So let’s pray. Pray individually and as a church. Pray for the people directly affected by this terror attack: loved ones receiving the bad news; investigators processing the scene while the victims’ cell phones ring; our LGBT neighbors who are scared and in pain. Pray for Orlando-area churches, charity groups and ministries who will be ministering to heartbroken people long after the TV cameras leave.
We should also serve. Can you donate blood? The local blood bank in Orlando has expressed a need for donations of rarer blood types in the coming days. Perhaps you can serve by helping to cover medical and other expenses. Or maybe you have a friend who needs someone to listen as they process what’s happened, or who needs an embrace.
The horrific massacre that happened in Orlando shows us once again the level of evil and depravity that can dwell in the human heart. It’s my hope that our response as Christians will point people to Jesus Christ, the only true source of hope and healing in the midst of brokenness and indescribable pain. May the Holy Spirit equip us all to live out our faith well in the coming days, weeks, and months.