In the wake of the most recent horrific and senseless shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in addition to countless others, my heart breaks for our nation.
My heart breaks because these acts of terroristic violence create fear and cut short the lives of beautiful, innocent people. People who are sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends, and future world-changers — people who bear the image of God.
My heart breaks even at the thought of these acts being racially or politically motivated. We must reject and renounce all forms of racially driven violence and any hint of white nationalism. It should have no place in our nation.
My heart breaks for this generation of young adults all across our nation who are in need of mentors to positively influence their lives for love and service, yet it seems that many are caught in isolation, which makes them vulnerable to a fear-filled worldview.
My heart breaks for our country because it seems as though our culture compels us to immediately cast blame for the reasons for evil, and this pattern of blaming others spirals into division. We know that a divided house cannot stand.
I can assume that people with a variety of faith perspectives read this column, including those who place their faith in Jesus for salvation and those who may question if God even exists. As a pastor, I’m committed to helping all people have a genuine faith that intersects with real life. When real life happens — the good, the bad and the ugly — where does faith in God come into play?
Jesus called his followers to be salt and light. Our faith should inspire action to be salt and light to make a difference. Though it’s easy to stay frozen in what we can’t do, let’s focus on what we can do.
We can commit to praying for our nation. I hear people say that thoughts and prayers do nothing, but I would strongly disagree. Only God can transform the human heart, and when we pray our words touch heaven and change the earth.
Prayer is one way that we turn to God, asking him to intervene, and the Bible is clear that God responds to cries for help. We can pray that God would transform the heart of every person in our nation to accept God and not reject him.
Pray that people would surrender their own desires and choose to love one another.
Pray for our elected officials to seek God for wisdom and work together to enact commonsense laws that align with the moral code that is given in Scripture.
We can stand against racism and stand up for the marginalized by upholding the sacredness of human life. God loves every single person, pursues every single person, and has a purpose for every single person — no matter the color of their skin, their nationality, or identity. We should love one another, just as our savior Jesus loved us and gave his life for us.
We can thank God for first responders and personally thank them for their service. Whenever and wherever there is tragedy, look for the brave men and women who run toward chaos to help while others are running away. Thank God for law enforcement and emergency workers; pray for them to be strong, and thank them personally when you see them.
We can mentor this generation of young men and women. Our young adults need good examples to follow. Whether it’s those in the “inner city” or those in the “outer limits,” we can be intentional about talking with them, listening to them, encouraging them and guiding them from isolation and independence into connection and community, raising the value of healthy diverse relationships.
We can be an example. While it’s easy to look to others to change, we can be the change. The truth is, we all have the opportunity to be an example to others by following the golden rule — treat others the way we want to be treated. May we use our words to unite instead of divide and seek to find common ground with others rather than focusing on the differences.
Finally, we can choose to not lose hope. Out of these ashes, hope will arise. May our words of hope and actions of love be a bright light to this world.
As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Matt Mylin is a pastor at Worship Center, a Lancaster church. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.