Grace-filled Response To A Tragedy: #OrlandoStrong
Yesterday was one of the darkest days in the history of our country. It was almost assuredly the darkest day in the history of my adopted hometown of Orlando, Florida.
A gunman entered a nightclub in Orlando in the early morning hours on Sunday, and over the course of a couple of hours managed to kill at least 50 people, and wound 53 others.
The gunman, who happened to also be Muslim, pledged his allegiance to the Islamic state before he began shooting. The nightclub where he chose to terrorize and kill was a club frequented by gay and lesbian people--seemingly targeted for that very reason.
So many young people... taken violently, wrenched from their families. And all because of hate--borne out of twisted religious notions, and fear.
There are so many heartbroken people, grieving today over this terrible situation--including the now terrified and horrified family of the deranged and twisted man who became so filled with hate that he somehow justified his actions in the name of religion.
As Christians we have the opportunity to step into this moment and reveal the powerful and amazing grace of God. We have the opportunity to demonstrate the incredible, relentless and unconditional love of Jesus.
We can do this by showing our support of the gay and lesbian community, which has been rocked and horrified by the kind of hate that would lead someone to such a twisted state. The Apostle Paul exhorted Christians to "... mourn with those who mourn."
It's time for us to come alongside our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors, and let them know that the perfect love of Christ "casts out all fear."
We also can do what some of us might consider the unthinkable: Show grace and peace to the Muslim community and forgiveness to those who declare themselves to be our enemies--including radical Islamist terrorists. In the words of Jesus:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven..." Mathew 5:43-48
I am hurt and angry right now. Even as I type these words of Jesus they convict me, and I struggle to embrace them. But if we would resist becoming what we despise, we would do well to follow the example of Jesus himself, who forgave his enemies even as he hung on the cross.
May you find ways to live into the resurrection hope that comes directly from the unbelievable mercy of God in Christ. May you embody grace and peace to the world in this sad and terrible moment, demonstrating with your words and deeds that evil doesn't get the last word.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.