I think it’s safe to say that all of us are troubled by the eruptions of violence that we’ve seen in the news over the last few months.

That would be true even if these were isolated events, but as we all know only too well, that is not the case.

It seems that rarely a month goes by without a shooting taking place somewhere in our country that causes us to feel like the very fabric of our nation is being ripped apart at the seams.

In such a state, it is easy to overreact and paint certain groups of people with a brush that is far too wide and certainly unwarranted.

So as people of faith, let us remember that not all police officers are bad. Not all black people are thugs. Not all white people are racists.

Instead, most of them, while not perfect, are good and decent human beings. Sadly, however, there are examples in each of these groups of those whose hearts are not right and who intentionally do things that are hurtful to others.

Such actions are never justified regardless of whatever distorted reasoning is given in support of their wrongdoing.

We can and must learn to tell the truth and take responsibility for our own choices.

So what do we do in light of all that is happening around us?

For one, we can lower the divisive rhetoric that only serves to fuel the very hatred we’ve seen expressed in these and other tragic events.

Let us remember that we often do not know the full truth about events that take place in other parts of the country. We only know what has been reported to us.

So let us be careful with our words to make sure that we only speak what we know is truth and even then to do so without inflaming others.

Second, let us listen again to the encouragement of Martin Luther King Jr., who shared his dream that one day people would no longer be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Both parts of that statement are critical. Racial prejudice is wrong no matter which race is expressing it.

Likewise, refusing to face the reality that in every race and group there are some whose character is repugnant is equally wrong.

We do ourselves and our country no service if we ignore either of King’s crucial principles.

Finally, may we realize again that the foundation of our social ills is ultimately spiritual in nature and that only a fresh movement of the Spirit of God across our land will heal us.

So let us ask that God will have mercy on us and help us as we try to spread the love of Christ in both word and deed.

We should confess that our hearts are grieved as we think of the senseless killings that have taken place in our country.

We’re grieved not just that they happened in other places but also that there are persons with similar hearts in each of our cities. Something is profoundly wrong with us.

We must pray for God’s mercy – mercy not just for those we deem to be dangerous and out of control but also mercy for all of us, for there is not a single soul that is without blemish.

Surely, we all need to be cleansed of any sense of racism, hatred, blaming and injustice.

We should pray for our black brothers and sisters whose stories we as white people cannot fully understand, asking God to help them to heal.

Help them face their own social ills. Help their leaders call them to righteousness. Help them find justice when actual cases of injustice have gone unaddressed.

We must pray also for ourselves as white people, asking God to help us be empathetic to those of other races.

Help us to not make excuses for ourselves. Help us to use whatever advantages we have been given for the benefit and blessing of others. Help us strive for justice where justice has been denied.

We should also pray for police officers in Dallas, in our own state and around our country, asking God to help them know that most citizens are deeply grateful for what they do.

Help them to find the grace to get through these tragic days. Help them to grieve and to heal.

Help them as they have to make difficult decisions day after day in the most stressful of situations.

Help them advance the cause of justice in our communities and within their own ranks.

Brian A. Lee is senior pastor of Shades Crest Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. A version of this article first appeared on the Shades Crest staff page. It is used with permission.

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