Ten Reflections on the Orlando Shooting and a Prayer *

How might we as Christians process and respond to what happened Saturday night in Orlando? These reflections don’t say everything, but hopefully they are a starting point.

  • Evil is real. Evil is deep. Evil is evil.

We’re quick to minimize evil or underestimate its reality. Or chalk it up to bad circumstances or a tough background. But evil is real. There is a monstrous force in this universe and in each of us. Perhaps not capable of this. But very real.

  • Targeting the vulnerable and marginalized is especially evil.

This was an attack specifically against a gay nightclub. The LGBQT community feels vulnerable and on the social margins. Moreover, most of the victims were Hispanic. All of that makes them exactly the kind of people whom Christians are called to protect. As Andrew Wilson said, take Proverbs 14:31, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Now substitute “gay” or “Muslim” for “poor.” True religion must include defending and caring for those mistreated or marginalized (James 1:27). Forty-nine men and women, God’s image-bearers, murdered.

  • We should hesitate to speak with certainty about why this has happened.

The Bible instructs us to be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19­–20). That’s particularly appropriate here when so much is not yet known, and we may never truly know the killer’s motivations. Let’s be cautious about giving an opinion about why this has happened or what it means.

  • We should cry out to God in the face of evil.

How do we give voice to what we feel in a moment like this? God has given us words for when we face evil. The psalms of lament help give voice to our frustration, our hurt, our confusion, our anger. Read aloud Psalm 13 or Psalm 44 as a way to grieve to God. It’s right for us to grieve and mourn and be heavy-hearted.

  • We should not point a finger at the victims.

Jesus was asked his perspective on the tragedies of his day, the massacre of Galilean worshippers by the Roman governor Pilate, or a tower that collapsed and killed eighteen (Luke 13:1–5). People seemed to be asking Jesus whether the victims had gotten what they deserved. Did they die because they were sinners? Jesus bats the premise away. It’s not our place to assign blame to those who have suffered, to speculate that they died because they somehow deserved it more. Everyone stands before God to be judged for what they have done (2 Cor 5:10).

  • We should point a finger at ourselves and consider eternity.

What Jesus says in Luke 13 is that we should all stop and recognize the evil inside of us and our need to repent. Tragedy should make us examine ourselves and repent of our own evil, because judgment is real.

  • We should do good to everyone.

Christians have a responsibility and a call to do good to all people (Gal 6:10). How can I do good in this case? Pray. Donate blood. Reach out to gay and lesbian friends, neighbors, and colleagues and show them that you care and value them.

  • The law is meant to restrain evil.

What can we do as a society to make awful events like these less likely? Reasonable (and unreasonable) people disagree. But hopefully we agree that we should try to decrease the chances that such evil events can happen. One of the reasons God gives law in general is precisely to restrain evil. Is there a way forward for us to enact laws that diminish the chances of further murders like these?

  • The cross matters.

God has not held himself aloof from evil. He’s not distant in heaven, far removed from the awful reality of our world. He loves his creation, and therefore hates evil, so much that he became human and died on the cross. He took evil on himself, into himself, to put an end to it.

  • The resurrection matters.

Evil is real, but it’s not the last word. Jesus rose from the dead. Evil did not defeat him. And his resurrection is the first stage of the resurrection of all things, when God puts creation right, when evil is done away with. We mourn now, but we will not mourn then (Rev 21:4). Evil like this should push us to look forward even more to that day. It reminds us that this world isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, and it helps us look forward and hope.

So what does it look like to pray in this situation? Perhaps something like this:

Lord, we cry out in despair. We cry out in frustration. We cry out in anger. We do not know what to make of the tragic, evil events in Orlando. We do know that you know more and that you are capable of helping. Help us in our time of need.

Would you please comfort those who have lost loved ones? Place people around those who have lost family members and friends – people who will sit and listen, people who will make meals, people who will just be there with them.

Would you please give strength and wisdom to the local gospel churches in the area? Help them be present and mourn with those who mourn. Would you please give them the right words, the right resources, the time to help in meaningful ways? Please help them be generous with their facilities and their time when so many funerals are so sadly necessary.

Would you please help sustain the law officials who are undoubtedly tired? Please encourage them to keep pushing for justice while caring for the safety of the whole community. We pray that their post-traumatic stress will be limited and that they will get the appropriate care after experiencing something so tragic.

We pray for the healthcare workers who are still working hard even days after. We pray that you will sustain them with energy and help them be attentive. We pray that they will have good bedside manner and that they would show some of your grace and mercy to those that are hurting physically and emotionally.

We also pray for public officials. Would you please give lawmakers and those in charge wisdom to work to prevent these types of events from occurring again? And for all of us, help us not become numb to such killings. Wake us up to seek change.

For those of us physically far away, would you please orchestrate meaningful conversations with our friends, specifically our LGBQT friends who so often feel marginalized, especially from Christians? Would we be gentle in our actions, quick to listen, slow to judge? Would you help us persevere in praying and not give up when news coverage moves on?

We pray that you will not turn your face away but will bring healing and restoration to this situation and your world. Come, Lord Jesus. We long for you to make things right again.

Amen.

* This post was written by both Charles and Erin Anderson

One Comment

  1. Trent Poage said:

    ..this was an awesome blog! I’ve been struggling all week with the events in Orlando…
    Just wrapping my head heart and soul around the hate and evil of it all.

    Erin, has beautifully articulated where God had finally landed my soul…
    She actually spoke the words for me, it seems.

    Thank you for sharing your spirit-led heart here.
    Blessings to all.

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