Our nation’s latest tragedies raise many questions for all of us. However, a few things are clear. As a nation, we are not well. Our natural response is to look for blame because of our desire for justice. Our history tells us that it is easy to not see the presence of racism when our eyes look to blame others and forget to look at ourselves. It is easy to not listen to what others are telling us about what our words or actions do to our neighbors from other countries or in communities we often do not know as well as we should.
By seeking primarily to blame, we fail to see the corporate consequences in which we all share. We risk passing the buck by saying the problem is with them, not us. Jesus taught that before we work to correct others, we should take a hard look at ourselves. That hard look within us is needed now. And real repentance and lament should begin with us.
We lament the recent, unnecessary loss of life. We ask for God’s comfort to those who lost loved ones and are in pain because family or friends were injured. We can and should offer prayers for those who suffered through these senseless acts of hate. Only God can supply real comfort, yet He does use others as His agents. Moreover, our lament has long term effects when we also look at ourselves (our hearts, attitudes, and behaviors), when we ask for and seek ways to do better, and when we make efforts in reversing the trends, the current environment reflects.
Our current tones of public and political discourse have not helped us. To do nothing and stay in the status quo will not alter this toxic environment that has reached deadly proportions far too consistently. Both our words and deeds need attention. Solely blaming others, even if they are part of the cause, does not excuse us from looking hard at ourselves for how we have contributed to this environment. Our silence and neglect surely bare some of the blame.
Other contributing factors include the ways we are adding to the level of harsh and hateful rhetoric or attitudes, held even privately, that does not match the call of God to love our neighbor and serve as God’s light to the world. We often are not anywhere close to the standards our Lord has called us to; standards such as seeking justice, loving-kindness, and walking humbly with our God.
We need to renounce hate in all its forms, even the appearance of such. We need to challenge the use of violence, including structures of violence, as a way to deal with our problems. We need to listen better. We need leaders to lead by example, share responsibility, and find solutions to the growing violence in our society. We should move beyond only expressing regret, doing nothing, and blaming others. Given our country’s track record of multiple killings, we need serious discussions and action. We should look for the root causes rather than trying to limit the blame to what may be only some of the factors.
As Christians, we are called not to be like the world but to respond in ways that are better than mere self-interest or self-protection. We should model our faith from the pulpit to the workplace to the kitchen table. We are to love and serve others in the world, including those we disagree with about specific solutions. We are to be bold witnesses with the truth of the Gospel and its practical implications for life. We are to go beyond what often takes place and hold ourselves to a higher standard.
May God help us all to take a hard look at where we are with a willingness to change rather than merely defend where we have been. May we be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, so that we can be quick to learn—and maybe even help in the healing of others and find healing ourselves.