In what has become a far too common occurrence in recent American history, another mass shooting broke out in Orlando, FL (a couple hours from where I grew up). President Obama in his term as President of the United States has now address the country 15 different times because of mass shootings. This marks the deadliest shooting in American history with 50 dead, and 53 injured (at the time of this writing) and was carried out by a young man, an ISIS supporter, who opened fire on a prominent gay nightclub and had a 3 hour long hostage stand off before being killed by authorities. So what can we learn?
It is such a tragedy, and sadness fills my heart to see these acts of violence carried out on such a scale. What was once reserved for the battlefield, which was clearly defined, has now spilled over into our everyday lives to the point where it is quite realistic that a shooter could open fire at any moment, in the most mundane settings; a school, a movie theatre, a church, a nightclub ... the farthest thing you expect to be a battlefield. And yet people find themselves in these settings lying in pools of blood clamoring for their cell phones to have one last communication with their loved ones. It is a heart-breaking reality.
One of the terrible tragedies of this incident is the fact that the LGBT community was targeted, as if they needed one more antagonist against them. And to make things go from bad to worse is the undoubted folks who will come along in the name of God and Jesus and say that because they were living in sin, they deserved it. Oh, brother. Are you kidding me? Well while we are at it, if we are pouring out God's wrath onto others like it's our job, then let's go ahead and pour it out on ourselves just as quickly and fiercely my plank-eyed friend (c.f. Mat 7:1-5).
"If we are pouring out God's wrath onto others then we should pour it out on ourselves just as quickly and fiercely my plank-eyed friend."
We can learn from Jesus, who had some things to say about such thinking:
"To some who were confident in their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
'I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.'"
This is a tragedy for people. This is a tragedy for America. This is a tragedy for the LGBT community. But this is not a victory for the enemy.
I do not consider our enemy to be ISIS, or anyone who has pledged allegiance to such a group. In fact, we should learn who the real enemy is. I do not consider our enemy to be flesh and blood of any kind, but rather the spiritual forces of evil in this dark world (c.f. Eph 6:10-18).
Jesus teaches us to pray for our enemies, not condemn them:
"You have heard it said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
In this time of tragedy, let us as Christians, do just that.