As I am writing this it has only been a few days since the tragedy in Orlando, and already the 24 hour news cycle is bringing more and more facts about this horrific event to the surface. With all this, discussion over the various social media outlets, blogosphere and other forums have ranged from being sensitive to the loss and calling us to maintain a spirit of love, to degenerating into disrespectful, offensive tirades which produce nothing but a sense of anger and fear at the circumstance, and arbitrarily point the finger of accusation to anyone and everyone.
To cut through all the politicizing and the sensationalism from both sides about this incident, these are the facts: 49 people were murdered, 53 suffered injuries and by extension, families and communities across this nation were affected. Regardless of your position on gun control, LGTB rights or even about Islam, the reality is that a man’s act of sin, terrible and tragic, left so many people hurt and dead.
It is moments like this one, where the Christian ethic is to shine the brightest. As followers of Jesus, we open up the Bible and hear Christ’s very own words say to us “Blessed are the merciful…” (Matt. 5:7) and “Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy not sacrifice” (Matt. 9:13). The call of the Christian is to extend compassion to those who are hurting regardless of their lifestyle choice. As believers we are to “weep for those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) because Jesus wept over the tragedy of this fallen world (Jn. 11:35) and extended compassion to all who came to him. The extended hand and open embrace of the Christian to those who are hurting hardly makes the news, if at all. It is far easier to peg Christians as religious zealots who would celebrate the chance to see the removal of such sinners from the world. However, that assumption is so far removed from the truth. When the news broke about the shooting last Sunday morning, we at Evergreen Baptist bowed our heads and solemnly offered up prayers to God, asking him to comfort and be present with all who were involved.
The question is why would we do such a thing? At Evergreen Baptist, we are committed to the Biblical definition of human sexuality. As I heard one pastor say, that we are not just dogmatic about it, we are bulldogmatic about it. So again, why would we care about what happened to a nightclub in Orlando? The answer: the Gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to care. God in his compassion, as the Saint Athanasius said, condescended toward humanity in the person of Christ and saved the unlovable, not by anything that we have done, “but according to his own mercy" (Titus 3:5). The reason why we Christians, can and should freely give compassion to those who are hurting, in spite of their choice of lifestyle, is because we have been recipients of such mercy ourselves. Again, it is easy to paint Christians as right-wing-ultra conservatives when in fact, we are quite liberal--liberal in the way we bestow upon people love and grace. We freely give, because we have been given much.
In the days and weeks ahead, as more and more information pours in regarding this tragedy, my plea to you, the reader, is to not get caught up in the trap of making this a point of politics, or fall into fear of the repercussions that this incident may have on national policy. Rather, look to the example of Jesus and extend a hand in compassion where there is none present