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How to respond to the Orlando tragedy

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack via AP

I am writing this Cultural Commentary on Sunday morning as reports continue to come in from Orlando. At this point, we know that the Pulse nightclub tragedy is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. We know that the shooter has been identified as Omar Mateen and that authorities are investigating his possible ties to Islamic terrorism.

Tomorrow I will write another Cultural Commentary on this horrific event, perhaps looking at possible ISIS-inspired motivations and future attacks on the West. For now, I feel compelled to write this essay from my heart.

As I have watched the news reports, I have sensed the grief of our Father for his children. While Pulse is one of the best-known gay nightclubs in Orlando, Baptist ethicist Russell Moore was exactly right when he tweeted, “Christian, your gay or lesbian neighbor is probably really scared right now. Whatever our genuine disagreements, let’s love and pray.”

Here’s how you and I can “love and pray” for Orlando right now:

One: With hearts broken as God’s heart is broken. Scripture is clear: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18; see Psalm 147:3).

Our Father wants us to love all our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). If people had to be perfect to deserve our intercession, for whom could we pray? Who could pray for us? We are all broken people who need each other and our Lord.

Two: With honesty as we share the pain of those who grieve. David prayed, “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also” (Psalm 31:9).

We can be this honest with God. In fact, it is biblical to pray words of anger and frustration. If Jesus could cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), we can ask our questions and express our pain. The Lord already knows our hearts. He wants us to open them to him and to each other.

Three: With hope as we trust the redemptive power of God. The psalmist proclaimed, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way” (Psalm 46:1–2).

Whatever comes of this tragedy and others that may come in the future, our Father is still our Father. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He loves us as much today as when he died on the cross for us. Our Lord promises, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:2). No matter how deep the river, his love is deeper still.

As he stood at the grave of Lazarus, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). I am convinced that he weeps today over Orlando. Let us join him now.