We as staff at Outpost Ministries are incredibly grieved over the heinus shootings that took place on the morning of June 11 at the gay night club Pulse in Orlando. Our hearts are broken for the victims–dead and surviving, their families and friends. The reality is that at one point, some among us—past and present staff, colleagues in sister ministries, participants in our programming—have been at the gay bars and clubs, the parades, the bath houses, even the escort services. It’s only with much humility that we acknowledge we were washed, sanctified, and “were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinth. 6:11). If this tragedy had occurred at a different time and place, the victims could have easily been one of us or a dearly loved one.
We recognize that we have delayed on weighing in on this tragic event. It hasn’t been without much consideration and emotion. I have personally wept over this situation. We have proceeded with caution because we want our voice to be clear, not muddied by the hateful, unbiblical soundbites from a small minority who claim to follow Christ and the angry backlash that has ensued. Current events are shifting quickly; several tragedies have occurred nationally and around the globe since Orlando. Hopefully, our opportunity to speak into this event has not passed.
I believe that this tragedy is a significant wake-up call to the Church to some critical realities that beg from us, not only a response, but action. First, the LGBT community is hurting deeply, and we have an incredible opportunity to show the Father’s tangible love and compassion to individuals. This tragedy has obviously been particularly frightening and painful for them. Many of them have deep wounds of feeling rejected at various levels—abuse, bullying, family divisions, disenfranchisement from the Church. Unhealed wounds are only exacerbated by further rejection; to murder someone is the ultimate form of rejection. Individuals have been reeling with the question, “How could someone hate me—or someone like me—to the point of wanting me dead?” The shootings—and the hateful, unbiblical rhetoric—have reopened old wounds and left hurting people raw and exposed.
How can we practice love and compassion? We can take risks and engage in relationship with them, have real conversations and build trust. Ask them about their stories, about their longings and disappointments, even how the shootings have impacted them personally. We can show hospitality. Remember, Jesus dined with sinners! He didn’t wait until they stopped sinning until He reached out to them. We can love extravagantly through acts of service. We can even seek to understand our own past woundings and resulting sexual and relational brokenness and seek healing at the cross. We don’t have to do any of this perfectly. We don’t need to be ashamed of walking out both grace and truth, but we do need to walk them out in humility. The key is to put aside fear and intimidation of the gay agenda and of the fear of man and reach out to lost, broken and desperately hurting people.
Do you know any same-sex strugglers on the journey of healing and wholeness? Do you know any family members struggling to maintain relationships with their gay-identified loved ones? They have been shaken by this event too. In this cultural climate, their journeys are not easy ones. Make a point to encourage them often. Become community for them.
Second, we as humans have a real enemy, and we are in a real war, though we ”do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12). A friend of mine posted on social media after the shootings, “The issue here is not about gun control. It’s not about homosexuality. It’s not about Islam. It’s not about America. It’s about evil. Humanity suffers today because evil is real.” God’s enemy Satan—and therefore our enemy—is the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). That is exactly what he did in Orlando.
Darkness is increasing in our nation. Division is abounding at every level; violence is escalating at an alarming rate. Before Orlando, mass shootings were occurring with such frequency that they were getting less media coverage and less of our time. This act of violence, however, caught our attention. Not only was it the worst mass shooting in America’s history and the deadliest act of terror in our country since 9/11, but the nature of the act was especially dark.
As the Church our response must be, in the spirit of Joel 2, to return to the Lord with all our hearts “with fasting and weeping and mourning” for our nation (v. 12). What darker evil needs to befall us before we begin to weep before porch and altar and cry out, “Spare Your people, O Lord!” Many of us are familiar with the Lord’s response to Solomon as he dedicated the completed temple, “’If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’” (2 Chron. 7:14). Are we doing this, Church? We don’t do it just once; our intercession is an ongoing necessity.
I am also reminded of the letters to the seven churches in the beginning of Revelation. I encourage you to read and meditate on Revelation 2-3. If there is any question, Jesus is very clear about what we as the Body of Christ need to repent of: having lukewarm hearts, finding satisfaction in our wealth instead of in God, tolerating wickedness and various sins and losing sight of our First Love. Pretty much every church representation—what we consider “liberal” and “conservative”—seems to be covered. Christians are quick to point a finger at which denomination, church or individual’s sins are greater and who needs to do the repenting. But humility begins with me. Prayer and seeking God begin with me. Confession and repentance begin with me.
Third, persecution of the Church in our nation is coming quickly. The Orlando shootings have a particularly double-edged sword because, based on media-generated discussion that followed, the event has the potential to fuel and accelerate the persecution of the Church. The world doesn’t acknowledge a spiritual enemy, and it is looking for someone to blame. Christ-followers who stand for obedience to God’s Word and His transforming power are being equated with radical Islamic terrorists. The good news is that in God’s reality, persecution of the Church results in the advancement of His Kingdom. History tells us that persecution can be the match to the wildfire of the spreading of His Word.
Are we ready for this, Church? To be honest, I’m not sure that I am—who wants to be persecuted?—but I want to be ready. We can prepare by filling our lamps with oil (Matt. 25:1-13) and spending time growing in intimacy with the man Christ Jesus. Jesus also directly offers encouragement to the suffering Church in Revelation 2-3. We must daily set our gaze on Him and set our hearts to persevere so that we will not be offended in the time of testing.
Beloved, let us allow the tragedy in Orlando to awaken us and sober us. We must be moved to new levels of love and compassion, humility and repentance, intimacy and perseverance. Our Bridegroom is coming. We must make ourselves ready.