In 1968, we lived in Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. I remember thinking I could smell the smoke that rose from the city during the riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King. That was the beginning of a terrible, confrontation-filled summer for our country; it has since been dubbed “the summer of hate.”

The summer of 1968 has been on the minds of many this week, after the shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas. Congressman John Lewis, who marched with King, tweeted yesterday, “I feel sometimes we’re sliding backwards.”

The issues that arise from these tragedies are complex and inter-twined: There is no simple switch to throw to mend the damage and to turn off the hate, fear, and destruction. But in a world on fire, we must work to dowse the flames. As people of God, we have a responsibility to speak His truths – to ourselves and to each other – and to listen with His heart to the cries of anger and despair. Answering rage with rage only increases the pain. Ignoring wounds only deepens them.

We cannot embrace hate. We need to embrace each other. We need to speak for healing and change, rather than call for rancor and revenge. We need to work to correct the injustices and inequities that corrode our communities and our souls.

Following the Pulse massacre last month, a group of Broadway artists revived the Bacharach-David classic, “What the World Needs Now is Love.” The song is a prayer, acknowledging that God has given us so many beautiful things, but, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love,/It's the only thing that there's just too little of./What the world needs now is love, sweet love./No, not just for some but for everyone.”

Let us begin change by being God’s love on Earth. Let us love one another eagerly and actively. May the light of our love, of His love, outshine the flames.

“[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

1 Corinthians 13:5-7