That week represented one of the darkest series of events I remember in my lifetime. First on Tuesday, police in Baton Rouge, La., shot Alton Sterling to death. Two days later, Philando Castile was shot by a police officer after being pulled over for a busted headlight in Minnesota. His death was streamed live on Facebook by his fiancé.
The next day, a peaceful protest was organized in concert with the local police, where heartbroken Americans gathered in downtown Dallas to mourn and voice their objection to the horrific violence. As the rally reached its ending point, a sniper opened fire at the crowd, specifically targeting white cops. By the end of the night five police officers were dead and seven others wounded, making Thursday night the deadliest event for law enforcement since 9/11.
The violence in our nation is spiraling out of control, and we need answers; because it's in these times of extreme tragedy the worst and best in people comes out.
The worst in us is our self-centeredness. We live in a culture where individual desires are pursued at the expense of everyone else's desires. Each of us has placed himself at the center of his universe.
The best in us is the proclamation of our dependence on God. "In God We Trust" — one of the foundations of our nation — is printed on our money, but in all reality, God has been minimized to a tagline.
In the coming days, I expect just about every politician and media person to say that their "thoughts and prayers" are with the victims of these tragedies. But prayers to whom?
Prayer is a hint to trust in God. It's a subliminal instruction to trust in the single, objective, unifying source of unconditional love.
You will hear people call for peace, which comes from unity. Unity comes from agreement, yet the sides in this issue still stand so resolutely separate. There are people of color who fear cops, and there are cops who fear people of color. The tension is undeniable. Both sides live in fear.
I'm an African-American from Long Island, N.Y. My dad was a cop, and my son is a cop, so I have a law enforcement family background. I have personally experienced both sides of the issue, and I can tell you that, as a starting point, proving your side right won't solve the problem.
I'm also a pastor, which means I'm in the business of helping people come into right relationship with God and others. I know that in order to come to agreement on issues of race and violence — and ultimately find the lasting peace we long for — we must lay down our own agenda in favor of God's.
The Bible says "there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). For all of us who are afraid — African-Americans, the police, you and me — the remedy to our fear is the perfect love of God.
We will never experience freedom from fear without first coming into contact with God's perfect love.
I've called the chief of police and the mayor of San Diego, as well as other city leaders to see how The Rock Church can pray for and support them. I've organized a prayer meeting with local pastors, and Sunday, as a church, we stepped away from our planned activities to address our country's open wounds and to pray for healing.
I'm calling our city and our nation to "love somebody different than you."