The news out of Orlando this week has been both terrifying and heartbreaking. In addition to the Pulse nightclub massacre, Christian singer Christina Grimmie was shot while signing autographs after her concert.
The two stories are separate. The killers were different people with different beliefs and different agendas. The victims were diverse; of different religions, lifestyles, ages, and races. Nevertheless, they bear the similar thread of hate and seemingly spontaneous bursts of evil.
What do we say then? How do we process the injustice, cruelty, and heinous violence of such crimes? How do we comfort those who have lost loved ones? How do we find comfort for ourselves?
1. Don’t fear wicked men.
The intention of any abusive person – whether he be an Islamic terrorist, a white supremacist, or a domestic abuser – is to incite terror. They are bullies and they desire to be feared. They control the behavior of others through violence, cruelty, and threats. However, the Bible tells us not to fear wicked men. Ultimately, God is in control, not them.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:26-28
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
2. Rest assured that God sees and remembers the sins of evil people.
The popular watered-down strain of evangelicalism often paints God as an all-loving, all-forgiving pushover. That is not how the Bible depicts God at all. God immeasurably loves and completely forgives those who repent of their sins and love him. He does not however love those who hate him and spew evil. In times of tragedy and injustice, the just, holy, and all-seeing God of the Bible is a fiercely reassuring reminder that our pain here on earth does not go unnoticed.
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” Psalm 56:8
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” Proverbs 15:3
“Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of [Babylon], my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.’” Revelation 18:4-5
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” Mark 9:42-48
3. Remember that God is sovereign.
As is said in the song – In Christ Alone – which Christina Grimmie posted on YouTube for Easter, “From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand.”
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:26-33
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” Mark 4:39-41
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:28-31
4. Do good to everyone.
On Sunday, Dan Patrick was lambasted for sharing an excerpt from Galatians 6. Ironically, the true meaning of the verse is to encourage us to “do good to everyone.” We will indeed reap what we sow, so let us not be selfish, spiteful, hateful, or unfeeling. Instead, let us sow love, mercy, forgiveness, and forbearance, so that we might reap the same blessings.
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:7-10
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’ It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” Jude 1:17-23
5. Heaven is just beyond the veil.
“And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’” Isaiah 25:7-9
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” John 14:1-4
“They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” Revelation 6:10
We are both Christians but we are taught different things depending on which Christian religion you profess your faith. As a Catholic, we do not believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible. I’m not saying that to provoke a discussion of what might be correct or not. I just wanted to say that although I have minor differing opinions on what you wrote, I appreciate your post and the place of love and goodness it came from. I hope that the investigation of Christina’s murder does not get put aside while the Orlando PD is overwhelmed with the Pulse massacre. My heart grieves for all of them and all of their family and friends.
Thanks Hilda. I’m curious, what Bible verses did I interpret literally that you do not?
Catholics are supposed to follow the covenant with Jesus and not the covenant with Moses (although in my experience many don’t because they haven’t attended further education as they age and hold beliefs from the 1960’s pre Vatican II) and our beliefs change as we are informed by the evolution of the people and gifts God bestowed upon us. When a new set of laws are put forth, the old laws no longer apply. For example, an eye for an eye is the old law; the law from Christ is “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” They are conflicting. Not what you are saying, but I’m trying to give you an explanation. For us, Revelation is not of end times. It was passages written in code. Picture yourself as a Christian living somewhere in the Roman Empire in the last decade of the 1st century (approximately A.D. 81-96). It was dangerous to be a Christian. The reigning emperor insisted that his subjects take part in emperor worship. John the prophet who wrote Revelation (he was a disciple of John the apostle) and was likely from the Ephesus community that produced the gospel and letters named after John. There is a ton of symbolism within the text. (I can expand if you are interested). It was written to encourage his contemporaries. But the basic message of Revelation has universal application. We need hopeful reminders of the Lord’s control of history, that good will triumph over evil. We also need encouragement to maintain faithful to Jesus in times of crisis, temptation and suffering. However, the book of Revelation was not written so we can look to the latest earthquake, dictator, or war as the definitive sign of Christ’s second coming. People who speculate on the exact time of the world’s end ignore Jesus’ teaching (Mk 13:32) to leave this in God’s hands. We should be concerned about living each day in a committed, loving, serving way. Christians look to the future with hope. But we also believe we can meet the Lord in eucharist, in his scriptural word, in the depths of our own hearts, and in the people he sends into our lives. When we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rv 22:20) we also know that he is already here.
Okay, having that brief overview, the Old Testament is a book made up of pieces of writings over hundreds of years (based on archaeological evidence of carbon dating) by multiple authors having been passed down by oral tradition and recorded by people who could write and then pieced together. There is a J source, a P source, a D source and E source. When reading them, you have to take into account what was going on during the history of that time. For example, you have two accounts of creation. One comes from one source and one comes from another. Now with the gift of science that God has given us, we also have to interpret this with the science knowledge God has given us. For example, back in the time it was written, no one could comprehend large units of measure. It was easier for them to mark time in a day. For all we know, one day of creation as written in the OT could be millions and millions of years between days. No one back then could comprehend the idea of millions of years. But now we know how old the Earth really is. The Catholic church has finally embraced evolution (took them long enough because other religions had already embraced evolution; they move at too small a snail’s pace than I would like). The body is what has evolved; it is the soul that God gives us. If you ever want a funny read, you have to read “The Year of Living Biblically” by AJ Jacobs. People who like to point to lines of text in the OT to make a point truly doesn’t live their lives by every rule of the OT. It’s not possible and AJ Jacobs proved it. There are too many contradictions. He gave it one heck of a try.
For me, nothing said in the OT or in Revelations holds any big importance to me. It is not the covenant I live by. It is what Christ says that I try to live and THAT is a difficult thing. Love your enemies? Very few people can. I already wrote a letter that if I was ever murdered I do not want the death penalty pursued. I already pre-forgive them. I made Jeff promise me. I would want justice, jail time for life, but not death.
LOL — All that to kind of explain why I don’t believe God is an unforgiving God (sorry for the multiple negatives there). I believe that God is a forgiving God to those who repent of their sins. God is ever loving unconditionally. And those who don’t repent of their sins will go to hell which is not a place but just a void with the absence of God. It was mostly section 2 I was disagreeing with.
Perhaps I misinterpreted your intentions? I love having rational discussions with people about differences in religions. A gift my sister gave me when her thesis was on comparative religions. She has a master’s in pastoral care and ministry from Loyola. 🙂
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me share my thoughts in a safe space.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write that explanation! I see where you are coming from. Reformed Christians also believe that we are under the Covenant of Grace (Christ) and no longer the covenant of Moses. However, the Old Testament is still the inspired Word of God and much of it does carry over and bear relevance to our lives. The Psalms, for example, make beautiful prayers. And Jesus Himself frequently and repeatedly quotes the Old Testament. Jesus did not come to replace the law, but rather to fulfill the law.
Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets [the Old Testament]; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
Thankfully for us, Christ has fulfilled the Law 100%. It is not because we have to obey the law, but because we love God enough to desire to obey the law, that we keep his commandments.
And you are right; we cannot keep the law. To try to do so would be ludicrous. The whole point of the Adamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant, Noaic Covenant, etc. is to pound home over and over and over the fact that man cannot come close to accomplishing the holiness of God. Only God can. The Old Testament warns us of our fallen nature, and points us to Christ.
If you read the Old Testament from a Christian perspective, you’ll see Jesus on every single page.
AJ Jacobs did try to live out the OT POV from a Jewish perspective. Although he wasn’t practicing Judaism at the time, now that he has children he is keeping back in touch with his roots.
I really appreciate the dialogue and you taking time out for the explanation.
Ugh “getting back in touch.” I’m tired.