In worship on May 1, Village Baptist Church read together the words of Jesus when he asks his disciple, “Peter, do you love me?” When Peter responds to Jesus, “Of course, Lord, you know that I love you,” Jesus gives him a simple directive: “Tend my sheep” (John 21:15-19).
From the beginning of our Scriptures, God states unequivocally that human beings are made in the image of God. All human beings bear God’s image. No exception.
On Sunday morning, we will hear the words of Jesus saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). The same Savior who told his followers that “those who live by the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52) implores them to accept his peace so they can spread his message in both word and action.
On Saturday, May 14, 13 people were shot at a Buffalo grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Eleven of those 13 people were Black, and 10 died. Ten people created in the image of God are being laid to rest because of hate and violence. And this story has become all too common.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, about 450 murders have been committed by political extremists in the United States over the last the decade. More than half of those have been perpetrated by people espousing a message of white supremacy.
One of the earliest Christian baptismal creeds is quoted by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians: “There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
White supremacy, Replacement Theory or any viewpoint that values one human being above another is antithetical to the Christian witness. And yet, many of the people who commit these atrocious acts and put forth such hateful views do so in the name of Christianity.
As people who follow Christ, we cannot stay silent in the face of such evil. In the words of Wayne A. I. Fredrick, president of Howard University: “While we have become accustomed to these recurring tragedies, we can never tolerate their regularity. No matter how often they occur, racist mass shootings are not inevitable, and we must not allow ourselves to perceive them as such.”
Although this particular tragedy did not take place in our community, we must not stay silent until one like it comes to our doorstep. As people seeking to build a Beloved Community, we must boldly proclaim the love of a Creator who formed each and every one of us in God’s image and left us with one task: Tend my sheep.
“We tend Christ’s sheep by ensuring that wolves cannot harm God’s beloved children.”
We tend Christ’s sheep by ensuring that wolves cannot harm God’s beloved children.
We tend Christ’s sheep by raising young people to value kindness, justice and humility above prejudice and violence.
We tend Christ’s sheep by speaking up — and speaking with — when sheep are hurt.
Certainly, we pray for the lives of those lost senselessly on Saturday. But we do not stop there. We continue on this journey toward becoming a beacon to our community emanating love, drowning out hate and tending Christ’s sheep so that all may know the peace that Christ intended.
Emily Holladay serves as pastor of Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Md.
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