In the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, a twenty-nine-year-old man killed 49 people and injured dozens more in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. As Americans, we deeply mourn for those lives and pray for the families left behind. Nothing makes Sunday right and nothing makes it fair. As believers, we are most certainly called to respond to this tragedy, but we are not called to rant.
In Ecclesiastes 3, King Solomon spoke volumes that resonate today: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Eccl. 3:1). He then goes on to name different seasons in this life. Look specifically a few verses down: “A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (3:7–8).
It’s so easy to view tragedies like the Orlando shooting as a time to tear into a topic, speak an opinion, hate people, and wage war. For example, many will see the shooting as another reason to champion an issue or even to point a finger at a community. As your sister-in-Christ, I beg you to resist these temptations to rant and embrace this time to respond.
See this weekend’s shooting for what it was—evil. We are not in a battle against man-made objects or heaven-made people. We are in a battle against evil (Eph. 6:12). Know, though, that this is a war already won by the ever-Victorious King of kings, “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever” (Gal. 1:3–5). Because of Christ’s willing, sacrificial death on the cross, evil is fully forever defeated! Though the war does wage, the victor does reign.
We will hate evil, but we will not fear it. Children in today’s culture are growing up with terrorism as a normalcy. In the last several years, our nation alone has experienced shootings in elementary schools, movie theaters, church services, and holiday work parties. Our world has seen bombings in airports, cafes, and concerts. This is just within the past 5 years.
Though evil seems to be everywhere, our God alone is omnipresent, inhabiting every cleft of the heavens and the earth (Ps. 139:8). Though evil seems to know where and when we are vulnerable, our God alone is omniscient, knowing even when we sit and when we rise (Ps. 139:2). Though evil seems to claim lives at will, our Sovereign, Almighty Creator alone is omnipotent, making all things possible through just the very utterance of His name (Matt. 19:26). No matter how this fallen world continues to fall, declare David’s words, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4a).
Now in moving forward from this, in choosing our reaction as believers, please remember that we are called to have an eternal perspective. As tempting as it to grab onto the controversial topics, consider again King Solomon’s words in discerning your words to match the time.
Remember, this is a time to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Especially as Christians, this is a time to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2). This is a time to choose words that hold weight in eternity. Will ranting matter in heaven or will responding matter in heaven?
As believers, these coming days are opportunities for powerful conversations. Instead of speaking an opinion, ask that coworker or that friend or your brother about his relationship with God. I absolutely pray that this kind of pain doesn’t touch you, but I want to ask two hard questions: if this were to happen to those within your sphere of influence, would they be ready for eternity? Is heaven so interwoven to your earth that you see the destiny of the soul instead of the decisions of the person? These are convicting questions that I even have to ask myself, but I want us to keep our hearts and our mouths seeking first the powerful kingdom of our God (Matt. 6:33). Join me in responding to this horrific shooting with grace, seeing those in our influence with heaven’s eyes.
(For ideas on practical ways to help Orlando, see Relevant Magazine's article "How You Can Help Orlando.")