Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Tragedy in Orlando

            On Sunday we woke up to the tragic news of another mass shooting. While merely one of dozens of such tragedies in recent years, this one was different, in some ways.

            For one thing, it was the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history, with 49 innocent victims plus the shooter dying by gunfire. 53 more people were injured, but as of the time of this writing, the hope is that the death toll will not rise.

            Another difference is that this one involved a bar that catered to the homosexual community.

            It was classified a “hate crime” because it was directed at a certain segment of society, though I suspect that most mass killings are motivated largely by hate.

            It was classified an act of terror, because reports suggest that the killer had been radicalized by association with one or more terrorist groups which, while often in conflict with one another, share one overarching commonality—they hate America.

            But in the end, this one was pretty much like all the others. More sons and daughters perished. More friends died. More neighbors wouldn’t return home at the end of the day. More police, EMTs and first responders put their lives on the line for complete strangers once again

            What, some have asked, is the proper Christian response to this horrific tragedy? The fact that the question is posed at all is sad. It is a testimony to how polarized we are, not only as a nation, but as a community of believers who profess that Jesus is our Savior and Lord.

            The proper response? Sadness. Grief. Mourning. In Old Testament times, such a tragedy would have led people to “rend their clothes” and to clothe themselves in sackcloth and ashes.

            The proper response? Outrage. How dare someone, for whatever reason, harbor such hatred and malice so as to unilaterally decide that some human lives aren’t worth living.

            Let me be clear. The homosexual lifestyle is sinful in the eyes of God. But those of us who hold to the Scriptural teaching regarding homosexuality should not in any way view this criminal act as just or right or acceptable. To do so is to deny that our God is a God of grace and mercy.

            I do not hate the homosexual. I hate the sin.

            I do not hate the adulterer. Or the alcoholic. Or the liar, cheater or thief.

            I cannot hate them, because I am a sinner just like them. I don’t think that they should be attacked for their sin any more than I should be attacked for mine. I do not believe that they should be ostracized from society or banned from the culture.

            That’s true of most Christians I know. We are capable of complex thoughts, attitudes and beliefs. We are capable of believing something is sin just because God’s Word declares it so, while at the same time being able to associate with and minister to those who practice such sin.

There are some on the fringes of Christianity who have gloried in this tragedy. They use vile and vulgar terminology that adds nothing to the public discourse. They hold hateful and spiteful attitudes that call into question the legitimacy of their relationship with the Christ of Scriptures. They do not represent the heart of Christianity and should not be elevated to such status in the public eye.

            My heart breaks for the men and women who lost loved ones in this affair. I grieve for my country because of this attack on us. I mourn for the Orlando community as they struggle to deal with this senseless tragedy.

My condolences are not inauthentic nor my sorrow disingenuous because of my understanding of right and wrong based on the teaching of the Bible. I do not apologize for my beliefs nor do I yield my right to express sadness in times of such sorrow. I condemn those who would use this attack as an excuse to score political or theological points. And the comfort I draw in a time like this is that the God of the Bible is still on the throne, and the hope—the only hope—we have is in Him.

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