This week as we live our daily lives as followers as Christ, we are especially reminded of the great need in the world for the powerful, transformative love of Christ. This week, we are faced with how to respond to the deadliest shooting in American history that happened early Sunday morning at a gay nightclub in Orlando, in which 49 people were murdered. This week, we also remember the anniversary of another hate-fueled shooting that touched close to home – we remember the nine who were murdered while attending Bible Study at Emanuel AME church in Charleston. 

This week, we grip tightly to the vine to which we are attached, the vine that can never be severed – the vine of God’s love for us and for all of God’s people.

As followers of Christ, we remember that our response to such hate can only be love. We remember that the nine who were killed also sought such love, and sought to welcome all into their midst. They were not betrayed by their love – their lives were strengthened by it, their families remember it, and their resurrection into eternal life with Christ upholds it. 

We remember that the 49 who died also gathered in a place that was a haven for them, where they would not be judged by an oppressive world around them, where they found friends and life. The judgment of one individual broke into their haven and slaughtered them. As followers of Christ, we denounce this atrocity. In love, we stand with those whose lives were taken; we stand with those who are left in the world with more fear in their hearts that they, too, will be harmed because of one aspect of who they are. 

God does not cause suffering. But God stands with us through it. God tells us that it will not separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). God will transform it into a good purpose (Romans 8:28). 

As followers of Christ, we know that the killers do not represent the religions that they purported to. Islam does not advocate for this atrocity, in the same way that Christianity does not support the hate that fuels the KKK and white supremacy. 

As followers of Christ, we remember this week that we are called to love. So let our love guide us to stand with those who are being oppressed. Let our love lead us to know our neighbors, whatever race, whatever sexual orientation, whatever religion. When we put love at the core of our actions and when we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will truly be followers of Christ.

In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each another.
— President Obama
We condemn this monstrous attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured. The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence.
— Rasha Mubarak, the Orlando regional coordinator of the Council on American-Islamic Relations

Romans 8:38-39 (NRSV): “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”