An Asian American’s perspective on the Atlanta spa shootings

March 23, 2021

My heart broke on March 16 when I heard the news that eight people had been killed — including six women of Asian descent — in a mass shooting at three different spas or massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia.

Investigators in the case say the suspect struggled with sexual addiction that conflicted with his religious beliefs, which motivated the shootings. The alleged shooter has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

While the investigation is ongoing, the suspect has not been charged with a hate crime at the time of this writing, yet many commentators have described the incident as such. Still, the incident has shed light on the rise of anti-Asian sentiment in the United States, particularly in light of COVID-19.

As an Asian, I am deeply concerned about this recent incident. Prejudice toward Asians and Asian Americans is nothing new. Throughout history, Asians in the United States have been marginalized in a variety of ways. Even my own family and I have witnessed discrimination at different times.

But why has there been an increase in hatred directed toward Asians, and how should we respond from a biblical perspective?

I believe anti-Asian sentiment is increasing largely because of the perception that COVID-19 came from China, and therefore, Asians are responsible for it.

It is basic human nature to want to blame someone or something whenever a problem occurs. Instead of focusing on the problem and how to solve it, we often seek to blame someone or something else.

This tendency to pass the blame started from the very beginning. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve disobeyed God when they ate from the tree that God forbade. When they realized they had sinned, what did they do? They blamed each other, rather than acknowledging their sin to God.

So, how should we respond? Consider these three points.

1. Know who your real enemy is.
Pew Research revealed that in the early days of the pandemic, 58% of Asian Americans believed that racist views toward them had increased. Other research supports their beliefs.

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that anti-Asian hate crimes rose 149% from 2019 to 2020, based on a review of public records and police reports in 16 of the largest cities in the United States. Another study showed increases in shunning, verbal harassment, online harassment, civil rights violations and physical assault directed toward Asian Americans from March 2020 to February 2021.

Despite these incidents, Asians are not the enemy. The vast majority of Asian Americans are normal people just like you. They are our neighbors. Even though their skin color or language is different, fundamentally they are no different than you. In fact, they are made in the image of God as all humans are.

Asians have suffered the loss of loved ones due to the pandemic just like everyone else. I know many Asian brothers and sisters who have died in the past year due to COVID-19.

So, who is the real enemy? The Bible tells us in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

This passage makes it clear that human beings are not our enemies. Instead, our enemies are evil forces in spiritual realms. We need to fight against our sin and brokenness, and against the evil one who seeks to deceive and divide us.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” — Ephesians 4:32

2. Forgive and embrace one another.
It’s easy to judge others and see their flaws while overlooking our own shortcomings.

Luke 6:42 says, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

Instead of judging others, we are to acknowledge our shortcomings first, and then embrace one another.

We are to forgive each other because Christ forgave us. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Remember, Jesus did not do anything wrong. In fact, He did not have any sin. But He was brutally killed on a cross. Why? He did it to take away our sins. He died in our place. His forgiveness was not with a word only, but it came with a price. He died to forgive our sins.

Therefore, we are to forgive one another. Compared to our sins that Jesus died for, what we have against others pales in comparison. So let’s forgive each other.

I hope and pray that this anti-Asian hate — or any type of hatred toward others — would not continue. That may seem impossible from a human perspective, but nothing is impossible with God.

If you struggle with bigotry or hatred toward others, come to Jesus Christ and receive His forgiveness for your sins. Then you will be able to forgive others.

3. Offer care and compassion to those who are hurting.
If you are Asian or anyone else experiencing discrimination based upon your race, ethnicity or culture, let this verse comfort you. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

If you have friends or neighbors who are Asian, now would be a good time to reach out to them to show kindness, compassion and concern as a way to demonstrate the gospel. As believers, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 reminds us that God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Finally, let’s bless the ones who wrong us. Romans 12:14-15 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”


by Sammy Joo  
Asian Ministries  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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