Sunday morning began as it normally does for me. I made myself a cup of coffee, read the newspaper, and listened to NPR while getting ready. (I am an old soul. Please be kind.)
It should come as no surprise that the Orlando nightclub shooting dominated the morning newscast. 50 people gunned down and dozens more injured by as ISIS radical intent on watching the world burn. The sobering details of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history rang in my ears as my family and I ran out the door to church.
How fitting that today’s service was held not in a sanctuary but along the river, on the sidewalks, and in the trenches our community. Our church family hosted “Inside/Out” Sunday, where we forget about a traditional church service, and instead simply focused on service. We met in our sanctuary briefly, then scattered throughout our town for the rest of the morning. Some picked up trash, others planted flowers and painted at a crisis pregnancy center, while a dozen made blankets for foster children.
This event was planned weeks ago, but God’s timing is always perfect. Church is never about sitting in a building and closing ourselves off from our neighbors. Today served as a sobering reminder that the world cries out for compassion. Despair demands hope. Worldly questions demand God-ordained answers.
Often we get stuck in the habit of going to church that we forget to be the church. In Matthew 5, Jesus directed us to be “the salt of the earth [and] the light of the world.” In the aftermath of another senseless killing, how can Christ followers carry out this command? Here are three points on my heart:
- Grieve. Jesus wept for Jerusalem, a city immersed in the aloofness of their everyday lives. He grieved because this city celebrated the Passover feast, but missed the Savior in their midst. Jesus’ example reminds us to grieve, but not be so immersed in the details that we miss him being there with us.
- Give. Generously offer your listening ear, a compassionate word, or a shoulder to carry the burden. The giving of our time and of ourselves can be the hardest gifts to bestow, but they are the most hopeful.
- Rejoice. After you’ve grieved and given, rejoice! Obviously, the brutal slaughter of 50 people is not a cause for celebration. We do, however, face a choice regarding our approach to these tragedies. Our rejoicing stems from the knowledge that Jesus’ power is at work in us, which can sooth the brokenness of this world.
In addition, let’s forgo passing judgment and the inevitable pat explanations. Rather than lesson the blow with a quick answer, I propose we intently listen for God’s still small voice. Opening our hearts to a heartbroken community searching for answers is much better than retreating into our comfy pew seats.
I call for a moratorium on all social media posts that broadcast conclusion-jumping, rash explanations, name-calling, and finger-pointing. Instead of wringing our hands and wailing that the world is, well, acting like the world, perhaps it’s best to change the way we look at the world.
If those in your community (as those in Orlando) have been dealt a devastating blow, rejoice in the opportunity to be salt and light to them. If the powers that be make laws contrary to God’s word, rejoice! Look at how many grace-filled conversations you can have with others. When tragedy, bad news, and pink slips invade our space, offer up praise.
Jesus lovers, take time to grieve, give, and rejoice. He has just thrown open the door to season the world through you.