Last night, a man, heavily armed with firearms, entered into a gay club and killed over 50 people, and injured even more. This is the most deadly shooting we have experienced in America. The man who committed this atrocious crime was reportedly a Muslim who had either sympathies or direct ties with the radical Islamic State group.
While I cannot offer an official statement from the Orthodox Church, I can say that myself and many other Orthodox Christians grieve with the family and friends of those who were murdered in this senseless act of violence.
Our prayers are with you, and we truly feel your pain. And I say that not tritely. We know what it is like to be singled out and murdered by violent Islamic forces. Millions of our own have died in a similar manner.
While we Orthodox Christians have never approved of homosexual relations, we try to make it a habit not to pass judgment on the souls of others. As Christ himself taught in Luke 13:
There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Silo′am fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Each one of us must actively live a life of repentance for our own sins. It is those for which we will be held accountable on the dreadful Final Day. I am reminded of the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian:
Help me to see my own sins and not judge my brother.
We Christians must remember that the end of our own life is coming, perhaps sooner than later. In some countries, events like last night’s shootings are not uncommon, and often the victims are Christians. If God allows us to suffer in such a similar way, then we have no room for judging others, even if we strongly disagree with their lifestyle.
May God have mercy on the souls of those who were slain as well as upon the family members and friends who are grieving at this time.