Turning on the news last Sunday morning (June 12), I watched witness after witness describe the confusion, anguish, and fear they were feeling after the horrible attack in Orlando. I listened as a wide range of experts and pundits speculated about motives and potential solutions. While driving that day, I saw flags flying at half-staff as an expression of national mourning over the loss of so many lives. Once again, our national attention was seized by the evil and violence that are so terribly common in our world.
And the haunting question that often comes to mind during such times returned: How do we respond?
Predictably, some immediately jumped to remedies of politics and policy in an effort to prevent such things from ever happening again. To be sure, government plays a key role of providing for the safety and security of its people. Politics and policies are important. But as followers of Jesus, our first impulse must not be to look to our political or cultural leaders for how we should respond. As followers of Jesus, we have to wrestle with the question, “How would Jesus himself respond?”
Among Jesus’ many remarkable traits, one that regularly outraged his opponents and inspired his followers was his extraordinary compassion. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life, he summarized Jesus’ ministry this way:
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35-36).
Helpless. Harassed. These words describe what so many were feeling last Sunday morning. And Jesus’ first response to the pain of the people was not to blame this group or that group or to lobby Rome over this issue or that issue. He compassionately cared for those who were hurting. His response was to meet their needs as best he could, often touching them in ways that not only healed their bodies, but also their souls.
There are no simple answers to difficult questions facing our society in the wake of such an event. I encourage you to thoughtfully advocate for what solutions you think best. But in that pursuit, hold tight to the compassionate posture that Jesus modeled. Prayerfully look for ways to care for those who are hurting around you. Like Jesus, meet their needs as best you can. By doing so, Jesus might use you to not only comfort their fears; he might use you to help them find healing for their souls.
About the Author
Jonathan Wolfgang is Pastor of Teaching and Discipleship at Northshore Community Church in Kirkland, Washington. His passion is reaching the spiritually curious and teaching seasoned followers of Christ.