We have seen a lot of fodder flying forth in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, but there are no greater words than the words of Christ when a disaster took place in His day. He did not call for prayer vigils. He did not call for new legislation to outlaw towers. He did not point the finger at one group of people and blame them. He told us that the most important thing we can do in the face of such a disaster is to repent, lest the same happen to us.
There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).
He calls for our repentance. He does not mean that we need to feel sorry for what happened, or feel sorry for not doing enough (as if we were sovereign and could have stopped it). He is not calling for us to make more laws, or lower the flags to half-staff. He is not asking us to display the rainbow flag in solidarity with those who were killed, wounded, or lost loved ones. He is not asking us to say “We are Orlando.”
No, our Savior is much more loving than to lead us down the broad road of self-righteous iniquity. He tells us what we need the most: to repent, likewise we all will perish.
He is telling us we need to repent of our own sins and trust in Him for salvation. Repentance and turning to Him are what we need the most, and the message that needs to be proclaimed the most. The sadness of Orlando is only temporal. The sadness of those who find themselves in everlasting punishment is eternal.
I’m not discounting the need to mourn in all of this. But if we miss the greater need, all the mourning we do is in vain. We need to start by mourning our own sin.
It also helps us to see these types of events in the light of greater spiritual truth. Jesus did not mourn the men who died at Siloam because He understood God’s sovereign plan in time and space. There will always be events like Siloam, Orlando, Paris, Oregon, Fort Hood, and the Twin Towers. These events are microcosms of the greater destruction that await us if we are not found “in Christ.” The events are snapshots of what it means to “perish.” These events point to the greater destruction that await those who refuse the gospel, refuse God’s love, refuse God’s grace toward us.
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
I’m not saying that people who perished in such events were not believers. There are always a smattering of believers in such events, as the Oregon 9 showed us. But we cannot assume they were believers unless we have truly a good reason to suspect as much. Therefore, the perishing that we see, is pointing to an eternal state of destruction awaiting all mankind, apart from Christ.
This is why it is so loving to proclaim the good news of the gospel, even in the face of such adversity. Jesus died, and was raised again, for our salvation. Those who believe have the certainty of knowing that on that Day we will be found in Him and have true peace. Repentance from our sinfulness, our ways, our self-righteousness, and turning toward Christ, lead to salvation. This is why Jesus tells us to repent, lest we all perish as those did in Orlando.
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:9-11).