The news report read, “It was clearly a terror attack, intended to kill as many people as possible.” The police officer was speaking of the terror attack in Barcelona where a man in a white van plowed into pedestrians with the clear intent of bringing chaos and death.
He was successful, killing at least 13, and doing so at the cost of his own life as he was shot by responding law enforcement. It is reported that ISIS has claimed responsibility for this attack, but this remains to be seen.
This attack came on the heels of a similar attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, this time perpetrated by a man presumed to be a white nationalist. The two attackers would likely have believed they had little in common, but the reality is that at the heart of each assault was a singular motivation – hatred.
Psychologists may debate the causes of hatred, but there is no denying that it is damaging to the one who hates and potentially damaging to the one or the group that is hated. Hatred is not always rationale. It often leads to violence. It separates people creating artificial battle lines. And, sadly, hatred appears to have reached a fevered pitch in our nation.
How should a follower of Jesus respond? We hear this the mass hysteria of hatred that is surging through our nation, and feel helpless. We are not, but what can we do?
Pray fervently. Our most underutilized resource is prayer. Believers have direct access to the throne room of God. He welcomes us into His presence, and He desires to hear our prayers. Let us boldly approach His throne of grace. Let us intercede for the oppressed and for the oppressor.
Live differently. The world invites us to join in their parade of hatred and vitriol. We don’t have to. We have a different invitation – an invitation to peace. Our lives are to be “peculiar” in the world, distinctive. We are to shine like stars in the night sky. We show the difference that Jesus makes.
Love freely. Christians are not distinctive only because of what we believe; we are distinctive because our lives are marked by love. In fact, Jesus said people would know we are His followers because of how we love one another. But our love is not limited to what happens among believers. Jesus also calls us to love our neighbor and even our enemies.
Stand boldly. One of the major themes of Scripture is the cry for justice. We do not have to take up placards and protest in the streets, but we do need to stand up for those who are abused, mistreated, ostracized, and maligned. We cannot afford to join the chorus of hatred and slander. We must stand against racism and sexism and stand for freedom and equality for all. We do not huddle together in fear; we stand together in faith.
Share Jesus. The 1966 song by Dionne Warwick proclaimed, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” I’d agree that more love would be a good thing, but the world needs more. The world needs Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the Give of Life, the Source of Hope, and the Personification of Love. And you and I have the privilege of sharing Jesus in this fallen and broken world. The world cannot afford for us to remain silent.