I am saddened by the recent violence in Atlanta in which eight people were killed by a gunman whose only motivation seems to be hatred. News analysts are wondering if these shootings were motivated by hatred of women, or if they were motivated by hatred of persons of Asian descent. I’m wondering if this is a distinction without a difference. Hatred that is so strong that it leads someone to commit acts of random violence and murder is always morally reprehensible, regardless of the root causes of that hatred.
We still have a long way to go as human beings. When hate begins to shape our actions or the actions of others, we need to call it out and condemn it. Hate unchallenged leads to violence and death. As followers of the One who told us how much God loves us and how much God loves every human being, it is imperative that we counter hate and violence with love and compassion.
What can we do? We can pray that those who lost mothers, sisters, partners, daughters in these shootings, will find themselves in the loving embrace of a God who cares deeply for them and shares their grief. We can challenge hate speech when we hear it coming from neighbors, family members, friends, or community and political leaders. We can examine our own lives and see if our actions or words have contributed to a culture of vilifying others for any difference, whether that difference is gender, race, sexual orientation, education, income, language, religion, country of origin, or any other part of who we are that makes each of us unique and beloved in the eyes of God.
In this season of Lent, as we repent of our actions that cause brokenness in ourselves and in our world, as we seek to follow more faithfully the One who loves us enough to walk with us all the way to the Cross, we are called to reach out in compassion and love to a world in desperate need of both.