I’ve written before about how my first reaction to tragedies is almost always wrong. Instead of praying, I want to respond. The murderous rampage in Orlando is no different.
We all have an inherent (and good) desire to see wrong made right, so we just want to do something—even if all that means is to say something on social media.
Unfortunately, our responses often contradict one another and attacked deeply hold beliefs of others.
As many responded to the Orlando shooting, they did so “against me.” Their way of doing something about to the tragedy is to make comments about how me, my opinions, my faith and others like me bear some responsibility for the 50 lives cut short.
In particular, I read one piece that explicitly equated conservative Christianity with radical Islamic terrorism in their attitudes toward gay and lesbian individuals.
I wanted to respond. To challenge the assumptions. To question the rationale. To discuss the details. I wanted to do anything but stay quiet. But that’s what I did. I shut up and let that person mourn.
He is part of the LGBT community and he rightly feels terrorized. As a Christian who does not have a personal relationship with him, the best response I can give him is my silence. If he and I were friends, the best response I could give would be my shoulder to cry on.
There is no argument to win in that situation. There is a person who is hurt and scared.
Too often, I want to rush in and defend my cause, pick up the sword and slash around at those casting aspersions toward me. But then I think about Stephen.
The Pharisees accused him of blasphemy and made him the first martyr of the church. But Stephen’s response was to pray for his accusers—one of whom was Saul, who would later become the Christian missionary Paul.
More importantly, I think about Jesus and how he kept mostly silent as he was being mistreated, falsely accused, beaten, and murdered. He used his few gasps of breath to speak words of encouragement to followers nearby, salvation to one on the cross with him, and forgiveness to those who nailed him there.
Drawing from their example, I can shut up and let people mourn. Stephen and Jesus remained silent facing their own death. You and I can remain silent while others deal with death in their community.
Eventually, faulty comparisons and illogical arguments can be refuted and confronted, but that day is not today. Fifty people created in God’s image are dead and that calls for mourning.
Romans 12:15 says our responsibility is to mourn with those who are mourning. It does not say our job is to rightly assign blame or confront misdirected emotions. We just have to mourn and sometimes that is the hardest thing.
You will see illogical statements. Show grace by extending your own silence even in the face of what you believe to be irrationality.
Think to a time when you were grieving. How clear were you thinking? How rational are we when confronted with tragedy and death?
Save the Facebook memes or pity thoughts for later (if ever). Instead seek to understand the pain and love the person. Christians say we can disagree without hating. Here is where we show we can listen and love before we even get to the disagreement.
Outside of prayer, the most powerful thing you say to others, especially on social media, over the next few days might just be nothing. Shut up, mourn, pray and love.