“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
– Rom 12.15
Yesterday we woke up to the news that Omar Mateen had murdered 49 people and injured 53 more at a popular LGBT club in Orlando, making this the most deadly attack on American soil since 9/11. The people of the United States are in the process of grappling with the event and are experiencing varied emotional responses in the grieving and acceptance process. Some people are scared. Some are angry. Some are numb. Some are distancing themselves by reason of lack of association. But we, as Christians, must carefully consider how to respond.
It is no secret that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin – just like lying, stealing, cheating, any fornication or sex outside of marriage and all of the other sins which are more easily recognizable by social norms and our current legal mandates. It is also no secret that no one enjoys being told they are living a sinful lifestyle, and thus the LGBT community and Biblical teaching are at odds with one another – causing much tension and difficulty in decision making as a nation. Understanding of discrimination and the freedom of religion/belief has been headline news for months, compounded by issues like the Target bathroom fiasco.
But here we are in a completely different scenario. Over one hundred people have been injured or murdered, and many have entered into eternity by the hands of a man with hatred in his heart. It is time for Christians to step up.
Sometimes our situations and problems are a direct consequence of our actions. Sometimes our situations and problems are an indirect consequence of our actions, and sometimes things happen purely by being at the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time. When a person is hurting or broken in the wake of a tragedy, regardless of how they got to that point, it is the God-given duty of Christians to respond in love. It is always our responsibility to act and respond in love, but we have a very real opportunity to portray the love of Christ in the midst of suffering.
Paul gives us a very clear picture of how we should handle ourselves on a regular basis:
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
– Rom 12.9-19
This is merely a portion of Paul’s instruction. He speaks directly to how Christians should interact with one another, and also with the outside world; with friends and with enemies. We, as Christians, are given the almost impossible task of blessing those who persecute us. That means when we are shot during a church service or martyred for our faith, we should respond in love to our captors and murderers. But we are also given the command to meet people in their circumstances – to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. When someone else is murdered or attacked for their lifestyle, we grieve with them. We do not have to agree with someone’s philosophy or worldview to sympathize with his grief. We do not have to condone someone’s lifestyle to be a friend or comfort. Just as God comforts us in our sorrows, we should be ready and willing to comfort those around us who are suffering. Even if their suffering is a result of their choices.
The events in Orlando are the result of one man’s choice, not the direct result of a homosexual lifestyle. We can and must respond in love: with sympathy and grief over the tragedy of lives lost – certainly some of which were lost without Christ.
This is indeed a chance to present the beautiful hope of Christ, by presenting the Gospel. This is also a chance to present the beautiful love of Christ by being present, and silent if necessary. Some people are looking for answers immediately, some people need time to process and grieve before looking for an answer or for hope. This is when we weep with those who weep. There is no science to sensitivity, only awareness and direction from the Holy Spirit.
God often uses tragedy to awake in us a contemplation about eternity and our mortality. God also uses tragedy to help us keep in perspective those things that are of eternal importance. We must love. We must mourn. We must be sensitive, all without compromising the truth. We must be wise with our words, knowing when and how to speak truth. We must be the voice of hope.
“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders,making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
– Col 4.5-6