On June 12, our nation was once again stunned by violence inflicted on a portion of our population (at present, 50 dead and 53 wounded) in what is now being called “the worst mass shooting in the history of America.” This time the shooting took place at a nightclub in Orlando, specifically a gay club. The shooter, now among the dead, was claimed by ISIS to be “a soldier” of their organization.
Response has been all over the board, of course, with the political “hot buttons” involved in this event. Some politicians fear to blame radical Islamists for the shooter. Others look with disdain because of the sexual orientation of the victims. Still others are advocating that Mateen (the shooter) was actually mentally ill.
At this point none of that is of utmost importance. Labeling, posturing, politically assigning this event is crass at best. Let’s take the gray off the table and call this what it really is: an unvarnished illustration of the methods and outcome of spiritual darkness. A tragedy of epic proportion for the families of the victims and a loss of eternal proportions for so many who went into the club never to emerge again and instead found themselves facing eternal destinations.
A piece of America died in Orlando, the “happiest city in America.” We are once again blood-splattered and emotionally jarred by the nearness of violence to our heartland and homes. As an American, I hope this event moves us toward securing our nation. As a believer and follower of the Lamb of God, I find myself on this sad morning after wrestling with these thoughts.
1) How should the church respond? Not Orlando-area churches – our church? What should this cause us to do and how do we redouble our efforts to push back the darkness that has overwhelmingly found its way into the heart of our state? Will we share Jesus with more diligence? What if someone had gotten to Mateen before this happened and led him to Christ? Obviously he was lost and searching and thought he found his answer in a man-made religion. Perhaps we thought someone else would do it.
2) We cannot allow this event to further widen the gulf between God’s love for Muslim people, our responsibility to share the Gospel with them and our growing fear and disdain of those who follow this religion. Our churches, our mission board must be tasked to redouble our efforts to reach lost people wherever they are… and whatever their religious persuasion may be. The Great Commission does not have “exempt” clauses. We go everywhere… to all nations… to everyone.
3) We must allow this horrific event to underscore again how dark, how demonic, how devastating sin really is. We are not playing with an enemy that cannot bite and devour us. The devil is a “roaring lion,” seeking whom he may devour. Sunday morning, he devoured fifty people. Will this wake us out of our slumber?
4) We must remember that “our warfare is not with flesh and blood, but with principalities, with powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this age.” We cannot defeat this enemy with better guns and more bombs and soldiers. While our war with terror has a military dimension, the ultimate enemy that must be overcome cannot be shot with a weapon.
5) If fear rules, the battle is over. And we lost.
Hold your family closer tonight. Pray for God’s safe keeping for our nation. Pray NOW for the person who is considering doing the same thing somewhere else… here or around the world. Thank God we are not planning a funeral today.
Almighty, saving and all-wise Father, we come to You in this moment again of our despair and helplessness, reaching out to You… the only One who can help. We cannot fight an unseen enemy in our own strength or with our own devices. We need your help first, to guard and keep us safe but most of all to make us dangerous… dangerous to an enemy who has come into our very country, city and homes to “steal, kill and destroy.” And we pray you will use us to make this violence come to an end.
Father, we pray for grieving hearts and souls who lost loved ones in this latest act of terrorism. Some have called it “senseless” but it makes perfect sense to the one who’s agenda is to kill and destroy. Please help us know how to combat this enemy who has come to steal from us and leave fear in his wake. Please do not let him win.
We know that your Word tells us that in the latter days terrible times will come. They have arrived. And we believe that our redemption is drawing nigh. But as we await the return of Christ to this broken world, help us to know how to live… how to walk… how to be representatives of the coming King. We will not cower and retreat with fear.
And help us not to succumb to bitterness and anger. We know that the wrath of man does not accomplish the will of God. But as our Savior did, so must we pray, “Father, forgive.” And may we not retreat in our efforts to take the Gospel to the nations… even those occupied by Islam… but redouble our commitment to the task of bringing the world to salvation in Jesus.
Lord, help us. We live in a confused, broken, sin-saturated world. Help us to live in it wisely. In those places where it has been necessary for us to send armed services and troops keep them safe today and always. And bring them home soon, we pray. Bless our first responders – police, fire, rescue and medical workers – as their jobs become increasingly more dangerous and difficult.
And in all of this, help us to keep our eyes on You, Lord.
Through the Name Above Every Name, the Name of Jesus we pray.