Life is short. Last night, 50 people died in a nightclub in Orlando. But hundreds, if not thousands more died from various other causes throughout this country. Some were old and had lived a full life. But for many others, their time had come at a much younger age. Despite how good (or bad) your life seems to be at the moment, you could be next.
To be sure, this tragedy will incite all of the normal social and political battles. “If we had completely eliminated guns, this never would have happened.” Yes, it would have. Maybe in a different way, but guns are not the problem. Cain killed Able with his bare hands, or perhaps a rock. Suicide bombs are even more devastating than both rocks and guns, and there’s no practical way to outlaw them. This tragedy still would have happened even without guns -- perhaps in a different way, but banning guns would not have eliminated the sin in mankind’s heart.
Conversely, you may hear, “Well, it was a gay club! They got what they deserved!” Yes, and no. In response to a similar tragedy that befell Galilee many centuries ago, Jesus Christ Himself said this: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-3) Their sin is no worse than my sin or your sin. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s holy standard. (Romans 3:23) And as a result, we all deserve death. (Romans 6:23) That’s every bit as true for an atheist doctor as it is for a homosexual club goer who rejects God, and for that matter, even for Christians who know God.
The difference is not whether we deserve to die, or whether we will actually die, because absent a rapture, Christians and non-Christians alike will all die. The difference is not even whether we will live to old age. Some dedicated servants of God have died at very young ages, including David Brainerd, Keith Green, and Jesus Christ Himself. The question is not one of life or death, or even of timing, but rather, what happens when we pass into the next life.
And therein lies the greatest tragedy of this all: Apart from Christ, absolutely no one will be justified before God at the final judgment. No one is “good enough” apart from Christ. (Luke 18:19) No one can love enough or do enough good works to be pleasing to God apart from faith in Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:8; Hebrews 11:6) In fact, apart from genuine faith in Christ, even our best works are like filthy menstrual rags before God – perhaps accepted or even glorified by man, but completely repulsive and unpleasing to a righteous and holy God. (Isaiah 64:6; Hebrews 11:6) And so, when all is said and done, no one will be “righteous” enough, or “justified” before God, apart from Christ. (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10, 3:20; Galatians 3:11) There is, quite simply, nothing we can do on our own to merit heaven, to merit eternity with God and in His presence. (Revelation 7:9-17)
Nevertheless, although we have done nothing to deserve salvation, God has given us everything we need for it. Jesus Christ Himself left the glories of heaven to come to this Earth – and make no mistake, this Earth was every bit as depraved in His day as it is today, and was without our modern technological comforts and conveniences to boot. He lived the perfect life that we could not live, and then died the death that we deserve. Although He was the only person in the history of mankind who did not deserve death, He laid down His own life so that we may have ours. And although we deserve noting except death, God gave us everything we need for life through His own merit.
What is our part in all of that? Admit that we can’t do it on our own. Admit that apart from Christ, we are as sinful as the openly gay people partying into the wee hours of the morning. Admit that apart from Christ, we are as lost as the Muslim shooter who openly rejected Christ as His Lord and Savior. (And yes, I do know that he openly rejects Christ as His Lord and Savior, because part of accepting Islam is rejecting Jesus Christ as God, Lord, and Savior.) Admit that you need Christ every bit as much as those who died last night, even if you’re a “successful” doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher, coach, or parent. Because as I said at the outset, you could be next. Or “do you [still] think that these [Floridians] were worse sinners than all the other [Americans], because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
The greatest tragedy in all of this is not simply the pain and aguish felt by so many last night. The greatest tragedy in all of this is that the fifty openly gay club goers, as well as the shooter, all seemingly died in unrepentant sin, in open rebellion against God, and thus without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The greatest tragedy is not thinking about what so many suffered through last night, today and beyond, as horrible as that is; the greatest tragedy is realizing that eternity apart from Christ will be forever unspeakably worse, but yet that tragedy could have been avoided if the seed of the Gospel had fallen on soft hearts that were willing to listen to the truth before it was too late.
Christians don’t preach to judge you. We preach because we care. We preach because we've been where you are, and because we know what's on the other side -- the wonderful, and the terrible. Please listen to us. And if not to us, then please listen at least to Jesus: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-3) Please listen before it’s too late for you. Because as harsh as the suddenness of last night’s tragedy was for so many, you could be next.
"For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27)