The deaths in Orlando trouble us to the core. First there was the death of singer Christina Grime, whom some speculate was killed because she was a Christian. She not only sang on The Voice but she also led her church’s worship team. Then 49 die and many are wounded, some very seriously at a gay nightclub. Then there was the tragic death of young Lane Graves who was the victim of an alligator at Disney World. What in the world is going on?
That is a question many of us struggle with. Most of the time we quietly go from day to day assuming people will not shoot innocent people and alligators will not take young children. Just as we assume that people will stay in their lanes on the road, take car of our service call needs and responsibly prepare our restaurant food. Sadly, grievously, these deaths happen and shock us back into the reality that our world, including ourselves, are not just a little off or make occasional mistakes but that there is something seriously wrong. It is a fallen place.
With 9/11, another horrific tragedy, with the deaths in Paris, with San Bernardino and so many other places, with all that has happened in Orlando, and with every discouragement and failure and sin, we experience the law. We experience the sober reality that things are broken. We need something greater than ourselves. We need God and we need His Son Jesus Christ.
After Adam and Eve fell into sin and the world fell apart because of it, God immediately promised a Savior when He told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heal” (Gn 3:15). And now with the miraculous birth, life, death and resurrection of that Savior we have the promise of a “new heaven and a new earth” we have a promise of “paradise restored,” a “new Jerusalem.” God says, “I am making everything new” (Rev 21:5). Yet now we are in the “in between times” where it is not yet fulfilled. It is still a fallen world under the curse of sin and awaiting the return of Christ and the end of all things.
So at times like this two things are in order. First is to be soberly reminded that this is not all there is. This life and what it has to offer is not what we seek. There are blessings here, to be sure, but “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:0). So instead of being lulled into loving the world or being fooled into thinking that the world and everyone is basically good, including ourselves, we repent and embrace the grace of God in His Word and the worship of God. We join with the communion of Saints around the table of our Lord and unite in the fellowship of Christ’s Body of Blood. Therein we receive God’s grace and are comforted that in spite of the fallen world, we have God’s promise in Christ Jesus and that one day this “veil of tears” will be over and we will be “with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17).
But that is not all. There is a second very important thing. The rest of the world also experiences this sadness, yet without Jesus. As they experience this sadness of the world it too is an expression of law for them. It is the law which may be used by God to lead them to repentance. That is where Christians come in. We are not comforted by Christ just to relieve our own anxiety and sadness. We are saved for such a time as this, to meet people in their hurt, whether it be the daily sadness and disappointments, their physical needs or the horror they experience at seeing the world is not a safe place because they or their friends were in a gay nightclub. We meet them. We love them. We listen to them. We weep with those who weep and we “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15).
Joseph said to his brothers of his brutal experience brought on by those same brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gn 50:20). Yes the devil and evil and sin are behind these tragedies but if we as Christians catch the big picture of God’s eternal plan, we can see how it can be an opportunity to meet this horror with a Christian witness and God’s saving love.
It may look like comfort dogs - yes they are Lutheran dogs! As we care about people with a cup of cool water (or a warm dog) or a hot cup of coffee, people can begin to talk about the grief in their hearts and begin to process eternal things - and we can help them. As our neighbors express dismay at how these horrors shatter their view of their perfect world we can be there to speak of God’s plan to send a Savior and a really perfect place called heaven. We don’t just come riding in on our white horse to fix things for people and point our fingers at them but we come to embrace them, to love them, to listen to them and to give them Jesus.
This is the perfect time to be a follower of Jesus. We don’t like the horror any more than anyone else. Yet we know “what’s going on” and we can be those who can embody the love of Jesus “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, firstname.lastname@example.org or scottgress.com
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