What To Do With Orlando (And, What NOT To Do)1
It’s happened again. A man with a firearm walked into a public place, opened fire, and had to be taken out by police. 49 people killed, dozens of others injured. Tragedy. Terror. These are just two words that come to mind.
This incident has stirred emotions, argument, and debate regarding gun control, homosexuality, religion, government oversight, and much more. So, what do we do? That is, as disciples and followers of Christ, how are we to process such events? The reality of sin in a broken and fallen world is that more events like this will happen again, and how are we as Christians to respond?
In Luke 13 Jesus is teaching a group of people. Evidently, a tragedy had occurred in the recent days where a tower fell on 18 people and killed them all. Some of the people listening to Jesus teach asked him about this event. Jesus responded:  [Those] eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”(Luke 13:4-5 ESV)
Notice what Jesus asks here, do you think that the people who were killed were worse offenders than everyone else? In other words, was it just great timing that the “18 worst sinners” in all Jerusalem happened to be under the same tower and God decided to push it over in judgment? Obviously, the rhetorical question by Jesus begs a “no.”
Notice what Jesus also does here, he creates a teachable moment. That is, Jesus uses this social tragedy to call the listener to inspect his or herself. “No I tell you…unless you repent, you…will likewise perish.” In other words, Jesus warns the listener that there is a judgment coming against sin, and unless you repent and turn from it, you will perish like those underneath the tower.
So how do we make sense of that? How do we balance Luke 13 against the events of Orlando? Here are some potential things to think through as you process this tragedy with other people, and/or before posting something online:
- Check Yourself. Jesus used a social tragedy to call his listeners to repent. I am not saying that you should use Orlando to call others to repent, but rather you should be the one repenting. If it’s not a mass shooting, it could be a car accident, heart attack, fire, or stroke. At the end of the day, you don’t hold the number of your days—God does. This is profoundly humbling. Orlando should keenly remind us of our limited existence this side of Heaven, and thus cause us to seriously contemplate our relationship with Christ.
- Remember the Real Issue. 49 people were killed. Dozens others were injured. Hundreds of people’s lives have permanently been changed. As Christ’s disciples we should be careful of using this tragedy as a platform to remind people how much we are against homosexuality, and/or how much we support the second amendment. Orlando should remind us to pray, counsel, spread hope, and teach and train our kids how to process events like these in a way that displays hope in Christ. What if the Church rallied around Orlando and used this time to share the hope we have in Christ? Moms and Dads, your kids are watching how you talk about this. If your kids see you tighten your grip on your rifle after mass shootings, how do you think you’re training them to respond? How did Jesus use the tower in Siloam in Luke 13…?
- Remember Who is King. Jesus sits on a throne. Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power! The very words of Jesus sustain the universe. He is extremely aware of Orlando and every other tragedy occurring every single day on this globe—and yet, He reigns. I believe it does God a disservice when we say, in light of events like Orlando, things like “the world is going to hell,” or “it’s not like it used to be,” or “the good old days are gone now.” Let’s get this straight, no one on this earth has experienced “good old days.” The world fell into sin in Genesis 3 and has been there ever since. Adam and Eve are the only people who knew what a world without sin was like. When we carry a pessimistic attitude characterized by statements like those above, we hurt our witness that Jesus Christ is a good and loving King who offers hope, love, and forgiveness to all who come to him in repentance and faith.
So, were the club-goers in Orlando worse offenders than the rest of us? No, Jesus tells us, unless we repent, we will likewise perish.
May our hope be in Him, and Him alone.
Come, Lord Jesus.