Our hearts break for the tragedy in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue. At the same time, we are horrified by the attempted bombings of prominent American leaders, and the killings of two African-Americans in Kentucky. There is no place in our world for the actions, attitudes and motivations that lead to hate-crimes and irrational acts of violence. Can we not be better than this?
I believe that God has a vision for this world – that the world may be transformed into the very kingdom of God. If kingdom language does not work for you, then for a realm of heaven – of grace and peace, and kindness and compassion; of mercy and justice for all grounded in forgiveness and healing. All that hate can produce is hurt; but we are a people of grace, and we are called to heal.
Ours is a broken world. The anger, the hurt, the frustration, and the hopelessness that many feel, manifests in violence – against self, against neighbor, and against the world in which we live. Many people are unable to deal with the overwhelming burden of their disappointments and losses. But, we cannot continue on our current course. We cannot settle our differences with violence. We cannot use weapons to bring peace. We cannot couch hatred in the dressing of “righteous indignation” and do physical or emotional harm to brothers and sisters. Hate is not of God.
Innocent and beloved children of God have been killed this week. Senseless violence has taken sacred life. People may want to debate “issues” and “rights” and “politics” but the basic reality is that brothers and sisters in the family of humankind have been violently killed. We should mourn. We should weep. We should rend our garments. Our family has been broken.
I am not simply talking of the victims. It is crystal clear that those maliciously gunned down by weapons designed to take life need our prayer. It is also clear that the families and friends of the victims need our prayers. It is even fairly clear that the perpetrators of these acts of violence need our prayers. What may not be as clear is that WE need our prayers. Our culture is becoming one where violence is the first solution, and where animosity, hatred, violence, and destruction are viewed as acceptable options. This must never be.
Our God is a God of reconciliation, love, mercy, and justice. Ours is a God of grace who loves the whole of creation and who intends a redemption from hopelessness and despair to unity and acceptance. Our God calls us from hate and hurt to grace and healing.
My brothers and sisters, let us engage deeply with the victims and families of the Tree of Life Synagogue and the young men killed in Kentucky. Let us offer gratitude that the hateful acts of intended destruction through bombs did not succeed. But let us also offer prayers that we may begin to work together to usher in God’s kingdom upon this earth – a kingdom of grace and peace, mercy and compassion, forgiveness and kindness, a community of generosity and love. Hate cannot succeed. It is only through love that we have a future. Let us be known for our love in every way.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).