Recent shootings have targeted Christians in Sri Lanka, a Jewish synagogue in California, mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and other faith-based congregations. Such acts are tragic, senseless and repugnant.
They are the work of individuals who hate, and although far more people in today’s world are kind and caring, hatred seems to be gripping the hearts of more and more people in today’s uber-violent, belligerently argumentative and toxic world.
Public leaders as well as people in private life need to join in not only condemning such attacks but encouraging respect for faiths other than their own. Sadly, after the recent Jewish synagogue attack, there was a deafening silence from certain public figures and members of the media on that horrific event, although many of them consistently tweet and post about such matters.
Equally troubling, to my mind, was the oft-repeated, concocted phrase, used to describe the Sri Lankan Christians slaughtered at Easter services as “Easter worshippers.” It is inappropriate, even ill-willed, to blur and obscure that for which these people believed and died. It would be just as unsuitable to say “synagogue goers,” or “mosque attendees” because Christians, Jews and Muslims constitute the renowned monotheistic faiths — believers in one God — in today’s world.
To clarify, those killed in Sri Lankan churches on Easter Sunday were Christian worshippers. The term Christian was applied to the early followers of Jesus Christ, and its use continues into our day. It identifies those who “worship God” and believe that his son, “Jesus Christ ... died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven” (see "Christians" in the Guide to the Scriptures on churchofjesuschrist.org).
Jesus preached a gospel of justice, abundant mercy and, above all else, love. Jesus encouraged his followers to repent, be baptized and love and help those in need. He taught his Father’s commandments as well as stipulating “judgment is mine”— that rather than condemn and hate our fellowmen, we love them.
“Jesus suffered and was crucified for the sins of the world, giving each of God’s children the gift of repentance and forgiveness. Only by his mercy and grace can anyone be saved. His subsequent Resurrection prepared the way for every person to overcome physical death as well. These events are called the Atonement” (see the "Jesus Christ" topics page on churchofjesuschrist.org). Because Jesus Christ suffered “the penalty for sins, (he) thereby remov(ed) the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allow(ed) him or her to be reconciled to God. … Because of his Atonement, all people will be resurrected, and those who obey his gospel will receive the gift of eternal life with God” (see the "Atonement of Jesus Christ" topics page on churchofjesuschrist.org).
Forgiveness, love and charity are the essence of Christianity, as myriad respected Christians have taught:
• Jesus himself, in his Sermon on the Mount, explained, “Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment. ... Ye have heard … Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).
• Baptist minister and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumin(ates) it.” He observed and is quoted on christianquotes.info, “The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” He noted: “There is a final reason I think that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them” (see kinginstitute.stanford.edu).Comment on this story
• Renowned Christian C.S. Lewis described how to heal the festering animosity in today’s societies in his book "Mere Christianity": “The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”
Faithful Christians never need apologize for their faith, nor should they be marginalized by disingenuous labels. True Christians love their fellowmen and seek to do good in the world. They deserve the gratitude and esteem of others, as do all who promote love, kindness and respect. To that end, all men and women should aspire in this world.