“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Once again violence saddens our nation. A young man, gripped by the satanic delusion “you shall be like God,” has stolen the precious lives of innocent mothers, daughters, sisters, fathers, sons and brothers in Buffalo, N.Y. In his writings, the perpetrator rejected Christianity and espoused the demonic ideas of racial hatred and violence. Yet each one of the slain was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and each was as valuable as the blood of Jesus (John 3:16).
Acts of evil such as this make us ask, “Is there no reasonable path to preclude the deranged from the legal acquisition of firearms?” “Are threats of violence from such a person free speech?” “Must free speech mean the infinite, unending gush of hatred and filth on the internet, including evil, racist rants with associated threats of violence?” “Is there no stronger pre-emptive remedy available?” We cannot settle for the status quo.
Yet Paul reminds us to persevere in goodness. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). But who of us does not grow weary? Good citizens, loving family and friends, are murdered in cold blood; a heroic retired police officer gives his life for others … again. We pray with the psalmist, “I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God” (Psalm 69:3).
On Nov. 30, 2021, a shooting occurred at the high school my niece and nephew attend in Oxford, Mich. They had attended school with the eventual assailant for years. Their friends were murdered. Other close friends barely survived being shot, including the grandchild of a retired LCMS pastor. The signs were all evident in the young man whose life had become captive to sin, death and the devil, a participant in the demonic. I think of how devastating this incident has been for my sister’s family. I thank God for their resilient faith in Christ and courage in the face of evil, even when answers are not easily at hand.
I now pray for the courage of the victims’ families in Buffalo, that Christ’s merciful love would surround them all and that they would look to Jesus’ cross and resurrection for eternal hope.
Today I think of the beautiful and ever-growing collage of saints in the LCMS. I think of your love and humility. I think of your clear confession and witness to Jesus Christ, a Jew from Palestine, whose racial identity few among us share. He is our precious Savior. I think of His zeal to reach the Jews, the Samaritans and the Syrophoenician woman. I think of Simon from Cyrene, the African who bore our Savior’s cross (Matthew 27:32), and his family who were vital members of the earliest church (Mark 15:21; Acts 11:20; Romans 16:13). I think of my pagan Slavic and German ancestors — apart from Christ and all hope — who were grafted into the family of God when they heard the witness to Jesus. I think of my own precious granddaughter, who has more African genetic material than German. I think of our black brothers and sisters whose hearts have been so won by Jesus and His Word that they hold the Gospel as the greatest treasure and confess the Lutheran faith from deep conviction, despite our many weaknesses and failings.
I thank God that in this dark world of sin and hatred, you are light in Christ. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness” (1 John 2:9). Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Paul says that “the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:9). Peter reminds the church, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Let us act as good citizens of this world as we demand reasonable laws and strict prosecution of evil doers to thwart evil. “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. … Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:3–4, 8). It is a good work of love to practice civil righteousness toward our neighbor and to demand justice from our leaders. “Public remedy, made through the office of the public official, is not condemned, but is commanded and is God’s work” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession XVI 59).
Please join me in praying for the saints of our LCMS Eastern District and their president, the Rev. Dr. Chris Wicher, that they would not lose heart, but be greatly empowered in their witness to Jesus, the light of the world.
May the words of Paul and Barnabas continue ever more to mark us: “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:47).
O Spirit, who didst once restore
Thy Church that it might be again
The bringer of good news to men,
Breathe on Thy cloven Church once more,
That in these gray and latter days
There may be those whose life is praise,
Each life a high doxology
To Father, Son, and unto Thee.
(Lutheran Service Book 834:4)
Pastor Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod