We share in the grief of friends and family who lost loved ones to the unspeakable violence in Buffalo. The list of atrocities in cities such as El Paso, Pittsburg and Charleston keeps getting longer. How does one make sense of a teenage boy armed with a weapon of war etched with racial epithets, who massacred black supermarket shoppers and livestreamed his murderous rampage? Christians can respond to this tragedy theologically and attribute it to original sin. Psychologists may interpret this as mental illness or view it as a consequence of childhood trauma. Pundits may blame extremist social media. As followers of Christ we can acknowledge all of these explanations. But it is important to understand that the gospel is not just a theoretical construct to explain the good, the bad and the ugly of this world. The gospel also calls us to engage this broken world directly and in real time.

We must pray for the consolation that only Christ can bring. But I would also make an appeal to all pastors, black and white: In your Sunday sermon this week please talk about what happened in Buffalo. Ask yourself and your congregants: what does it mean to live out the gospel today in view of this most recent horror? I have little doubt that most black pastors will address the topic in Sunday’s sermon, so candidly, my appeal is especially to white pastors. What happened in Buffalo is a tragedy that belongs to all of us.

Frank A. James III, DPhil, PhD
President and Professor of Historical Theology
Missio Seminary