As Christians we affirm that every person has dignity and was created in the image of God. We hurt when people are hurting. We empathize with their pain. Not only do we pray for those bearing heavy burdens, but we help lighten those burdens when we can.
In the wake of the horrific shootings at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando where 49 victims were left dead and six are still in critical condition, we join with countless others to mourn. Most of us can’t understand the evil or hate that would cause someone to do something so heinous.
Prayer vigils have been held all over the world to remember the victims and those touched by this tragedy. As of this writing, a GoFundMe campaign has raised over $5 million for the shooting victims and their families. Many in Orlando stood in line to donate blood hours after the massacre. Two Chick-fil-A restaurants opened their doors, normally closed on Sundays, for employees to come in and cook up some chicken. They then went and passed out sandwiches, nuggets and tea to those standing in line to donate blood and to law enforcement personnel. The following day many of their restaurants provided free chicken biscuits and orange juice to firefighters, police officers and first responders. Chick-fil-A actually sought no publicity about this and declined to comment about the contributions. Its purpose is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.” Many more such stories are being told of people stepping up to help.
In the immediate aftermath of any tragedy it is crucial for Christians to focus on the love and call of God. Despite any political posturing or people trying to blame certain groups for the murders we must stay the course of caring for others. Jesus did not command us to love only the people with whom we agree. Be kind to everyone. As Paul said, let us “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)
Here is a beautiful prayer written by Scotty Smith after the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut shooting. “Dear Lord Jesus, we abandon ourselves to you tonight—we come running with our tears and our fears, our anger and our anguish, our lament and our longings. We collapse in your presence, with the assurance of your welcome, needing the mercies of your heart.
Some stories are just too much for us to absorb; some evil just too great to conceive; some losses beyond all measurability. We need your tears and your strength tonight. That you wept outside the tomb of a beloved friend frees us to groan and mourn; that you conquered his death with yours, frees us to hope and wait.
But we turn our thoughts from ourselves to the families who have suffered an unconscionable violation of heart and all sensibilities. Bring your presence to bear, Lord Jesus, by your Spirit and through your people. May your servants weep with those who weep and wail with those who wail. Extend your tear- wiping hand—reach into this great tragedy with an even greater grace.”