I think most of us, along with much of America, have been substantially shaken by yesterday's events in Orlando. I find myself not only saddened by the tragedy, but sickened by how the news channels and politicians are exploiting the event for their own gain. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left to try and make sense of the events and grieve over a very real reminder of the fallen world that we live in. Of all the experts being paraded in front of the cameras for the dispensing of digestable sound bites, not one is a pastor or other Christian leader. I understand why this is because I understand our current culture to some degree and that Christianity has lost its place at the table. That said, I do think we have the only perspective that can really make sense of such a tragedy. So here's a brief discussion of how I think one should approach what happened yesterday.
When people hurt, Christians should be the first to identify with their pain. It's easy to get hardened in this world. It's a coping mechanism that many of us adopt just to deal with the weight of the suffering that we ourselves and those around us are experiencing. I think this is why it's odd for us to hear Jesus say "Blessed are those who mourn" (Matthew 5:4) or for the Apostle Paul to write "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). Those who have been shaped by the gospel are able to be transformed out of these short cut coping mechanisms and allow the suffering of this world to penetrate our hearts such that we are able to grieve over our own pain and the pain of others. One of the most powerful displays of this by Jesus is at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11). It is there that Jesus is overcome by the emotion of saddness as he feels the pain of those around him. It results in him weeping. So as we see the pain and suffering of the family and friends of the victims in Orlando, we respond with compassion and grief for fellow sufferers.
There is a knee jerk reaction that many humans have when something happens that they consider really bad. They blame God or question his existence. Either one of these boils down to the conclusion that God cannot be trusted either because he doesn't care or he isn't really there. As Christians we know that God is all good (Romans 8:28), God is all powerful (Isaiah 45:6), God is all wise (Ephesians 1:8). We also know that we live in a fallen world (Romans 1) and that we, along with all of creation are groaning under the weight of that fall (Romans 8:18-25) until Jesus returns and fully restores this world to God glorifying, life-giving, perfection. While we wait, we know that bad things are going to happen and that these bad things originate from the sinfulness of humans and the unseen influence of Satan. That said, sin and Satan are on a leash and can only influence the world within the sovereignty of God. God always exercises that sovereignty in a way that is both good and wise. We may not understand it, but we choose to trust in him regardless of the level of suffering that we or others must face. Why would we do that? This brings us to number three.
The reason we know we can trust God, even if suffering is present, is because of the truth of the gospel. Jesus' death on the cross let's us know how bad our predicament is. Why else would such a horrific remedy be required for us to be freed from sin and it's consequences? His death wasn't just for the "really bad" sinners either, but was for all humans. It reminds us that there are no innocents and that if it wasn't for the gospel all of us would be worthy of much worse than being gunned down by a terrorist. In Luke chapter 13:1, someone mentions a recent tragedy to Jesus reporting to him that Pilate had killed some fellow Galileans in order to offer their blood in worship of a pagan god. Jesus' responds, ""Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Granted, this isn't always Jesus' response which is sometimes tears, but it seems that those bringing this up were thinking that God was judging those particular humans for something they had done. Jesus responds by letting them know that the Galileans who died were not innocents but neither is anyone else. The Apostle Paul says it this way when he quotes Psalm 14 when writing to the church of Rome, "There is no one righteous, no not one." (Romans 3:9). The only hope that any of us have is to repent. That means to turn away from sin and turn toward the Savior Jesus.
Instead of asking, "Why do these kinds of things happen?" We really should be thanking God for the grace that keeps this from happening more and that sustains people when it does happen. All are worthy of wrath, yet God gives grace to Christian and non Christian alike. Yesterday, the majority of the 320 million Americans went about their business in relative safety. Eating, drinking, working, playing . . . This was a gift from a loving Father. A Father who "sends rain on the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). More than that, this loving Father sent his Son to die in the place of sinners like us so that we could give comfort and gospel truth to fellow sinners/sufferers as we stand firm in the promises of God. A God who suffered to beat sin so that the world will one day be made right again.