The lion’s share of Christian responses I’ve seen to what happened in Orlando have been some version of “let’s not make judgments right now—our job as Christians is just to love, weep, mourn, comfort,” etc.
First, a confession of my own sin…
Yep, this is a sinful response.
We must mourn the slaughter of 49 human souls. Think about it—even when such a disaster is clearly a judgment from God on sin (think the Flood or Sodom and Gomorrah), I don’t think Noah or Abraham were looking on, clicking their heels in self-righteous delight because God’s justice was just such an encouraging thing to watch. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, who were struck down by God for lying to the Holy Spirit, we’re told that “great fear came over all who heard of it” (Acts 5:5). My sin is a failure to mourn, a failure to feel compassion for those suffering. I’m actively seeking to repent of this wickedness.
What do I mean by that?
Well, it’s easy to do a lot of posturing on Facebook, to project an image of compassion. But, if we’re honest, I think it’s just plain hard to process a tragedy like this, regardless of who the victims were. It feels so distant, and we’ve deadened ourselves to the horror of such violence through our bloodthirsty indulgence in the violence of movies, video games, and even the evening news.
And let’s face it. A lot of Christians are doing this kind of love-posturing in order to gain the approval of the world. One prominent conservative Presbyterian pastor insists that the job of Christians right now is “to seek with all of our hearts to love our LGBTQ neighbors in ways that our LGBTQ neighbors themselves would recognize as love” (his emphasis). The same pastor took to quoting Christian celebrities, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dostoevsky, and even liberals’ Twitter feeds, and making comments like, “I don’t know about you, but to me this provocative comment feels like something Jesus would affirm.”
Is this the best that Evangelical pastors—whose job it is to speak the truth—can offer? That a provocative comment Tweeted by a godless person feels like something Jesus would affirm? Have we forgotten that this same sort of thing happened in Jesus’ day, and that He actually talked about it?
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1–5)
Furthermore, Jesus totally misses the boat when He makes no mention of Pilate and his wickedness. Instead, Jesus (very insensitively) uses this murderous news story to draw His hearers’ minds to God’s judgment and the fact that they too deserved death.
One conservative Evangelical of national prominence processed the shooting on a Monday-morning podcast:
Our response as biblically minded Christians should be first of all to respond with the absolute unconditional affirmation that every single human being, regardless of sexual behavior or sexual identity or sexual orientation, is made in the image of God. Every single human being is an image bearer of the Creator; thus, we are required to be very careful and faithful in terms of our moral judgment. Our moral judgment in this basis is made first on the basis of humanity, only secondarily on the issue of sexuality. This means that we have to affirm without asking any other questions or without knowing any other particular about any other human being that they are an image bearer of God, and thus that they deserve the gift of life and the respect and dignity and sanctity of that life beyond any other consideration.
Is murder a vile sin? Yes.
Does every human being deserve the gift of life? What does Jesus say?
Under strangely similar circumstances, Jesus feels the need to remind us that, actually, we all deserve to die. Scripture teaches that we all have inherent dignity, since we are made in the image of God, but that by our sin we have corrupted that image of God, and we are therefore all “worthy of death” (Romans 1:32), because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23).
No one I know thinks there’s any justification for what Omar Mateen did. We all think it’s wrong. Duh. So why are Christians falling all over themselves trying to convince the world that we think murder is wrong, instead of reminding people of the death that sin brings to us all? I think it’s because we’re afraid of the world hating us. We talk about “earning the right to share the gospel with others.” But will any Christians advocating that we just love people right now be writing or broadcasting in a week, a month, a year, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”? Not a chance.
Keep your eyes peeled. I want to be wrong.
The truth is, when we’re worried about “earning the right” to speak the truth, and worried about loving the world (that Jesus says will hate us) in ways that it will understand as loving, the truth just somehow never comes out. Think about it: at what magical point will you have loved enough to be able to utter the words “God’s judgment”? Or “repent”? How many compassionate Tweets must you post, how many deep conversations must you have, how many homosexual friends must you prove that you have before you’ve “earned the right” to follow Jesus’ example and speak the truth?
In the end, how should we talk about the deaths of the the victims of this particular disaster?
First, all death represents God’s judgment on sin. That’s what God has said from the very beginning. Does that mean everyone dies because of some particular sin they committed? Certainly not. But we must ask the question: Is it a coincidence that many of these victims were engaged in blatant sexual immorality at the time of their death? We’d be fools not to see a connection.
But what’s the point of seeing that connection?
We ought to mourn, not just because these were people made in the image of God, but because God’s justice is fearful. His hatred for sin is intense. According to Jesus, tragedies like this are a foretaste of the judgment to come, when the ungodly will be thrown into the winepress of God’s wrath and blood will flow out from the winepress up to our shoulders for 200 miles (Revelation 14:19–20).
Should you feel superior to these sinners who perished? No. Fear God’s judgment and examine yourself, for unless you repent, you will likewise perish.