By Justin Rossow

The terrible shootings in Orlando call for some kind of Christian response. In Romans 12:15, Paul asks followers of Jesus to “weep with those who weep.”  But a failure to imagine other people complexly can stand in the way of a compassionate response. 

It’s easy to have a simplistic reaction to the Orlando tragedy. For many conservative Christians, a “gay bar” is superficially a place where sinful people go to do sinful things. Terror committed by sinners, against sinners, in a place of sin can be kind of hard to respond to with compassion. 

But if you listen to the LGBT community talk about the horrific impact of this violence, you might be able to understand the events themselves a little more complexly.

For a community traditionally acquainted with rejection, a “gay bar” is a kind of safe haven: a place where you know you are among friends, where you won’t be judged, where you are accepted at face value and don’t need to fear a critical gaze.

 The nightclub Pulse was a safe place for the LGBT community. While the violence itself is appalling, the violation of that sense of safety is a significant part of the horror.

 To respond with some measure of compassion, imagine people you know—people like you—being gunned down not merely in some public venue, but in a safe place, among friends, where you yourself could go and feel accepted.

 Imagine someone targeting followers of Jesus not at the local movie theater, but in a small group bible study or a prayer meeting.

 The violence here is not only physical; it is emotional. And if you don’t understand the violation of sacred space, you miss that aspect.

So weep with those who weep. Let your heart break with those you yourself have perhaps judged. Try to understand family members and friends. Be there to sit with neighbors and coworkers who are shaken by this act of terror. And let your compassion come from a place of seeking to imagine other people complexly.

We pray:

Jesus, we know You abhor violence and hatred. We know death is our enemy and You our only rescuer. Be with those who mourn. Stand beside those who fear. Be present in our words and actions, that Your heart of compassion might be visible through us. Give us Your peace. Amen.