Our hearts are broken tonight as a result of the shootings that have so far claimed the lives of five innocent police officers in downtown Dallas. While we do not yet know all the facts, we know three things for sure: First, that hundreds of people had gathered in downtown Dallas to protest the seemingly endless killings of African-American men by police; second, that sometime towards the end of the protest, someone or some people started shooting at police officers, hitting eleven and killing five; and third, that hate reared its head in Dallas tonight and revealed itself in all of its ugliness.

It was the reality or perception of hate that prompted hundreds of protesters to gather in downtown Dallas to voice their frustration at the callous killings of African-American men by police officers in cities across America. It was hate that motivated the shooter(s), whoever they are, to target innocent police officers and kill five of them even as they worked to protect the citizens of our great city. It is the gathering clouds of hate that threaten the peace of our beloved country by pitting Americans against one another.

America, for all her flaws, is as John Winthrop wrote and former President Ronald Reagan affirmed, “A shining city upon a hill.” It is the light that beckons throngs of humanity from the ends of the earth, throngs in search of elusive freedom, economic opportunity, human dignity and abiding peace. But today, we are witnesses to the tarnishing of America’s star, not by some external foe or rival, not by economic setback or some superior ideology, but by the poisoning of Americans’ hearts with the leaven of hate.

Never in recent memory have we seen so many tributaries of hate as we do in America today. Tributaries of hatred for African-Americans, hatred for Hispanics, hatred for immigrants, hatred for Muslims, hatred for Christians, hatred for gays and hatred for police all flow into a raging river of hate with  a steadily rising tide, and like the inhabitants of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, all of us are imperiled in its wake. This raging flood of hate, if it does not subside, threatens to develop into a circular firing squad that cannot end well for this country that we love so much.

At a time when Americans need to be rallying together, it is sad that some people in the political limelight are fanning the flames of hate in the hope of making political hay. While it is their right, given the freedoms that America affords, to spew hate as they choose, the rest of us must rise and band together to overcome the hate that they propagate before it destroys this land that we love so much. Hatred towards African-Americans must stop. Hatred towards Hispanics must stop. Hatred towards immigrants must stop. Hatred towards Muslims must stop. Hatred towards Christians must stop. Hatred towards Gays must stop. Hatred towards police must stop.

Hatred must stop because it leads to violence and violence only leads to more violence. Even when we disagree with one another, we need not let our disagreements degenerate into hatred. To do so is to impugn the humanity of our fellow citizens whose lives, like ours, are valuable in the sight of God. In the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” and “a house that is divided against itself cannot stand.” It is because we love America so much that hate must not win.