How to Respond to Tragedy like a Jesus-follower

June 16, 2016

From Erin Bird

This past Sunday, June 12, I helped set-up for our Worship Gathering, sang alongside many of you, taught from Matthew 6, and then tore everything back down, completely oblivious to what was happening in Orlando, FL.

By now, you have probably heard that nearly 50 people lost their lives, and another 50+ were injured in a mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub. And as you are also probably aware, the entire situation is rife with political tension: a gay club, a Muslim shooter, ISIS connections, recently purchased guns, and more.

But with so many people responding with a wide variety of reactions, how should someone who claims to follow Jesus respond?

On Monday, I received an email from Scott Ridout, president of Converge Worldwide (Riverwood is a part of Converge). Converge has headquarters in Orlando, so this event hit Scott and the national office a bit closer than other shootings. And I found Scott's email to all of Converge incredibly helpful.

So rather than write my own response to the tragedy that happened in Orlando and post it on the blog, I thought I would share Scott's letter. May it help you and encourage you to respond to tragedy in light of the gospel of Jesus.

Sunday morning, the people of Orlando woke up to the disturbing news that our community was the victim of “the worst mass shooting in U.S. history,” which, at the point of this writing, left 50 dead and 53 wounded at a local night club. This senseless act of violence by one person has left many friends and families mourning, a city reeling and a country outraged.

My observation is that so many people are focused on so many of the wrong things. Opinions are a dime a dozen on social media – LGBT, ISIS, gun control and political posturing appear to be the frontrunners in the latest conversations. There is no question that some are using this tragedy for selfish gain and promotion of their personal agendas, while others are looking for someone or something to blame, with the goal of fueling anger and potentially, revenge. Still others are paralyzed in fear that what happened in Orlando might one day happen in their community.

In the midst of all the posturing, anger and fear, I want to take this moment to remind us that God has called us to live differently than the rest of the world:

God is bigger than any circumstances we could possibly face in this life, so live courageously. The world is not as it should be. This incident is another proof of that. Sin is rampant. Evil is real. Yet God is sovereign. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world but we should not become a people of fear. “Take courage,” he said, “for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Knowing God’s power and wisdom are in play, we must choose not to be a people of fear, but a people of faith. 

Every person is valuable to God and therefore should be valuable to us, so live compassionately. Paul tells us in Romans 12 to “Weep with those who weep.” In 1 Tim. 2 he tells us to “pray for those in authority.” Rather than joining the barrage of conversation on social media, I ask that you take an hour and pray for all involved–weep over the loss of life, grieve with those who lost loves ones, mourn over the sinfulness of our world and pray for wisdom for our leaders.  

What the world needs more than anything in this moment is not more politics, posturing or pledges. What the world needs is more Jesus.

God designed the church to shine in crisis, so live intentionally. In Matthew 5, Jesus describes the church as a “city on a hill” and tells us “let your light shine in such a way that people see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.” Don’t give in to cynicism or fear, do something. Pray. Give blood. Speak words of comfort. Reach across the divide of sexual orientation and religion with the grace and mercy of Christ. Become a part of the solution. Be the church.  

Jesus Christ is the hope of the world, so live hopefully. What the world needs more than anything in this moment is not more politics, posturing or pledges. What the world needs is more Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John.14:6). Remind yourself and others of his love, power, comfort, strength, wisdom, mercy and peace, and let other see these qualities of Christ in you. In doing so, your witness will be the remedy this world needs. Together, God will help us leverage this tragic moment to advance his purposes and greatness in this world.

I ask you to pray with me for the comfort of those who lost loved ones, the healing of the wounded, the wisdom of the authorities to uncover the facts and the discernment of local leadership to lead well. Pray God will provide peace and unity and many would come to him. Most of all, pray the church displays unity, compassion and the hope of God to all the people of the Orlando community, throughout our country and around the world.

Better Together,


Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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