We’re all trying to digest the tragedy in Orlando: 50 people are dead and many more injured after the largest mass-shooting in America at a gay nightclub. The gunman has pledged allegiance to ISIS and many are pointing fingers at Islam. He used two guns he legally purchased last week, despite being on an FBI watchlist.

One thing is for certain: there’s a problem. And it’s so big no law will fix it. That doesn’t mean laws aren’t good or helpful or necessary. But they aren’t enough.

The temptation to live in fear is very present. But living in fear only means your potential for survival is higher. It’s no secret the gay community believes the Church is full of judgmental bigots who think their sin is worse than our own.

My question is this: Will we prove them right (by offering cold-hearted sympathy), or will we show them we aren’t who they think we are?

Dead Tree Forest

Cold-Hearted Sympathy
If this was a school shooting, there would be no hesitation to cry out in sympathy and outrage. Why is this different? As an evangelical Christian pastor, I can understand why some Christians might feel the need to qualify their sympathy… but I also want to encourage them NOT to do that. Just weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn.

We do not need to qualify our expression of mourning and anger over this act of terrorism. Sharing your support “despite disagreements” will only come off as cold-hearted sympathy.

I do not consider the homosexual community my “enemies,” but that’s often how things are perceived. Regardless, Jesus taught his disciples how to interact with their enemies accordingly,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” Matthew 5:43-47

And the Apostle Paul instructed believers,

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:14-18

This doesn’t mean you bury your convictions… it means you’re embracing the conviction to empathize, pray, and love. Simply put, this is a moment to show one another the honor and dignity we share as people created in the image of God.

If you haven’t yet, I strongly commend Russell Moore’s post, “After Orlando, Can We Still Weep Together?”

To Christians: Be People of Hope
This is not the time to fight or debate over the legitimacy of gay marriage, or gun control, or immigration. This is a time to mourn. Cry. Give blood. Send cards. Offer support and express concern to members of the LGBTQ community you know, who must surely be on high alert right now.

“Always be prepared to give the reason for the hope you profess, but do so with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

The gospel is a message of hope. Realize that if we rush into this crisis with anything other than a heart filled with grief and hope, then we will be trying to manipulate people into the gospel. Please don’t do that. (It will make you look like you’re trying to take advantage of people’s suffering and hurt, rather than seeking to truly enter into the pain that people are experiencing.)

I don’t have easy answers right now, but I’m convinced that right now is a time to be prepared to speak the gospel (gently and respectfully), while putting the priority on mourning with those who mourn.

To the LGBTQ Community: We Mourn With You
I am very much aware that I’m often perceived as the enemy of the LGBTQ community. Tonight, I guarantee you… my heart is broken.

As a Christian Pastor, I know what it’s like to mourn for others in my community who are hunted down and killed because of the very thing that bonds us together. The world isn’t a safe place for Christians either. I think a lot of people forget that.

I’m not sharing this in any competition or to make it about me or “my people.” This isn’t about me; it’s about your community. But because of the Christian community, I know how to mourn for you. I know the hurt and loss you feel, as if others are looking at your heartache from the outside, but you feel it more deeply than people realize. While I freely confess I don’t know exactly how you feel, please know that I understand more than you might assume.

In this series of tragic events, we are unlikely partners in mourning right now. And I’m here to try to assure you that the Church is not the hateful, bigoted community you might believe us to be. I’m praying that us Christians would respond to your hurt in a way that makes it clear that we are more loving and kind than we’ve shown – and I’m truly sorry on behalf of those who only prove our stereotype true.