As a pastor who has not been slow to speak up about homosexuality and transgenderism in the past, I want to be no less slow to speak up this week about the devastating shooting in Orlando this past weekend, when 49 people were gunned down by Omar Mateen at the Pulse nightclub. The first response of any Christian to such a tragedy should not be to get immediately tangled up in the tense debates about gun control, Islamic terrorism or the gay lifestyle. A Christian should simply follow Paul’s exhortation to weep with those who weep. (Rom. 12:15).
In Orlando this week, multitudes of people, particularly in the LGBT community, are struggling with the sting of death as they grieve the loss of friends, family and loved ones. Every morning they wake up, and process the nightmare all over again. The tears keep coming. Lives are altered forever.
In the book of Philippians, Paul wrote about a dear friend of his named Epaphroditus, who almost succumbed to an illness, but was spared by God’s mercy. It was a mercy that reached Paul as well, because otherwise, Paul would have had “sorrow upon sorrow.” (Phil. 2:25-27). That’s what people in Orlando are experiencing — sorrow upon sorrow upon sorrow. To them I extend my deepest condolences.
The God of the Bible is one who is near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:8). He is mindful of all the tears shed by heartache and grief (Ps. 56:8). Therefore, no matter how much a Christian might disagree with a person politically or morally, a heart touched by grace is a heart that is quick to show compassion.
One tangible display of this was witnessed Sunday in the actions of the fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A. It’s no surprise that the restaurant is a supporter of evangelical Christian causes. The company’s president, Dan Cathy, has been quoted as saying he supports the “biblical definition of the family unit,” which has led to organized boycotts of various Chick-fil-A outlets. My guess is that the relationship between patrons of the Pulse, a gay nightclub, and local Orlando Chick-fil-A restaurants has not always been cordial.
And yet this past Sunday, employees of Orlando Chick-fil-A stores went to work, handing out free food to people who were standing in line to give blood to help those who were injured in the shooting. A statement from one of the restaurants read as follows:
The events in Orlando stirred our local restaurant owners and their teams to band together to provide nourishment to first responders as well as volunteers who donated blood. We do not think this requires any recognition. It is the least we can do in this community we love.
It is possible, apparently, to stand on Biblical principles, and still have a heart of compassion. It’s possible to strike a balance between grace and truth. It’s possible to proactively love and serve those with whom we disagree. Isn’t that what Jesus did for us? My prayer is that, if a similar tragedy were to strike closer to home here in Indiana, that the redeemed Christ followers of Muncie and Yorktown would do the same, and weep with those who weep.