By now, most of us have heard of the events this weekend in Orlando, Florida. Early Sunday morning, a Muslim extremist entered into a gay nightclub, killing 49 individuals and injuring many more. It now bears the dubious distinction of being the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Coming in 2nd, were the 32 killed at Virginia Tech in 2007. But the list of mass shootings is now quite large, but this one is the largest to date.
Like many of us, I have been thinking about the victims and their families. I can’t even begin to imagine the grief and shock that must attend them at this moment. In the chaos of the events, family and friends gathered to find out who was injured and who had been killed.
The events in question have led me to contemplate the issue of murder. Genesis 4 records the first human murder. Before the murder itself, God confronts Cain with a question. “Why are you angry?” Indeed, wherever murder occurs, anger surely preceded it.
We don’t yet know the rage that had built inside Omar Mateen. We are hearing reports from his ex-wife, that he was controlling, erratic and abusive. We are also hearing reports of his connection with radical Islam.
But all of these issues focused my attention on another matter. It is the matter of anger, and murder that grows in the human heart, when we cannot love and respect those with whom we profoundly disagree. The Bible does not forbid anger. But it directs it in a proper manner. Psalm 4:4-5 says, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.”
This election season in the U.S., has seen plenty of anger. Anger over racist statements. Anger over job loss to Mexico and other developing nations. Anger over political betrayal, and disappointment over the performance of politicians. Protests have erupted into anger and violence. It seems, people are very angry. And in the midst of this anger, we find an act of anger by one man directed at the behaviour of others that results in mass murder and killings. Anger left to simmer without resolving it, finally breaks out violating the 6th command. “You shall not murder.”
What does God say? When Psalm 4:6 bids us to offer right sacrifices and put our trust in the LORD, it invites worship and a reflection on the nature of God’s rulership in the world. God rules well, and his people do right to wait upon him, and upon the final vindication of his purposes. Learn to be silent, says the Psalmist. Learn to control your emotions and replace rage with faith in God’s sovereign purposes. And in your anger – refrain from sinning.
God’s people must behave differently than the countless outbursts of anger all around us. We are not insensitive to issues that cause anger. We have learned, however, that murder is always a great sin. So is hatred. So is a lack of compassion for others. So is a lack of love for those with whom we disagree. In essence, all Christians who truly follow our Lord have been called to demonstrate that our response to a hate filled world is love.
In this season of anger, leading to murder, let us as believers demonstrate the calling of Christ on our lives.