Once again, a member of my own university community has inspired me with some piercing insight.

You’ve heard the slogan: “Black Lives Matter.” Its become a rallying cry across the nation.

And you’ve probably heard what some Christians are hurrying to propose an alternative: “All Lives Matter.”

Is that an appropriate response?

Brenda Salter McNeil — SPU associate professor of reconciliation studies, and director of the reconciliation studies minor — answers that question in this Today’s Christian Woman feature by Patricia Raybon about her voice and vision.

Check this out:

As Christians, because of our fear of saying or doing the wrong things—and our desire to be kind and also not to feel guilty—we rush to say ‘All Lives Matter.’”

But that’s premature, Dr. Brenda says, because “it doesn’t sit with the pain, the hurt, the collective grieving that we saw in Charleston. For me to say ‘Black Lives Matter’ doesn’t deny that you hurt, or that all hurt. But right now, I hurt. It asks, Can you sit with me and acknowledge my pain?

Such empathy aligns with the gentle strength manifest as a gift of the Spirit, Dr. Brenda says. Shepreached this message at her Seattle church (Quest Church), emphasizing the power of responding gently to someone else’s pain, on the Sunday immediately following the Charleston tragedy.

“Theologically, as Christians, we can be crippled by the way we think of our individual relationship with God. He’s my personal Savior. I invited Christ into my heart,” she says. “That’s true, but we’re limited when there’s a social problem that’s not about one person. If someone says ‘I’m in pain,’ the next statement you make should not be ‘I’m in pain too.’

“In that moment, gentleness is having the strength to restrain my need to feel better about myself or to be heard too. Instead,” Dr. Brenda says, “in that moment, gentleness would be to handle someone else’s pain with such care, such dignity, such respect that I’m not saying ‘All Lives Matter’—but rather, ‘It’s your turn. And I offer the respect to grieve with you in this moment.’”

I wonder if this is why, as much as I love R.E.M., the song “Everybody Hurts” never sounded very comforting to me.