The Boston Bombings: Some Thoughts and a Prayer
The tragic events of Monday, April 15, 2013 continue to remind us that we live in a world that has changed. Terrifying, public acts of evil, formerly something that we witnessed in other parts of the world, have come home to live in the United States. We are now embarking on a way of life that is beginning to have more in common with the modern state of Israel than it does with our own nation pre-2001.
These bombings in Boston have multiple layers of tragedy. There were people that were killed. Others lost limbs. Many others are being treated for a variety of injuries due to the blasts. Still others will be dealing with the emotional trauma and fear. And to add to the already deep sense of pain, the 26th and final mile of the marathon was dedicated to the 26 lives lost in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary – and this last mile is precisely where the bomb blasts occurred.
Our world – America’s world – has changed.
Our President responded to this event by stating that we would find the person or organization responsible for this and that they would feel “the full weight of justice.” While law enforcement bravely secured the safety of Boston's citizens through the killing of one perpetrator and the capture of the other, there is still much work to be done to understand why these events occurred. Our prayers are with the President and those who will be working toward that end, because the government has a responsibility to pursue this very thing. When citizens (or non-citizens) wrong other people and/or our country, we are reminded that duly ordained governments do not bear the sword in vain (Romans 13:4).
But I would like to turn our attention – your attention – to a different responsibility. The government has its own responsibilities and we should pray for, and advocate for, their proper diligence to fulfill their responsibilities in bringing good to people and protecting citizens from harm. But what about our personal response to evil? How should we as individuals respond to evil? What should we do?
Some have rashly responded “I’m sick of this – I’m thinking about moving to another country.” Others have said, “I’m moving out into a rural area away from all these crazy people.” But here’s the problem: Evil lives in other countries, and evil lives in rural areas. Evil lives in cities and country sides, is no respecter of language or culture or wealth, and doesn’t relent anywhere for long. You can’t run from evil – it’s everywhere. And it is everywhere because the spirit of the world we live in is one that is at war with God. We live in a war zone called Earth, where the forces of evil – real evil – wage war against the forces of good – real good.
Herein lies our answer: Overcome evil with good.
So, what do we do? Well, for those of us who believe that the Scripture is a true revelation of God and His heart for us, then we do have some instruction. Here is one example, in Romans 12:17-21:
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Herein lies our answer: Overcome evil with good.
Contrary to running from evil, the Scripture actually assumes evil’s existence and teaches us to be a people that actively overcomes it. How do we do that? In context, this passage gives numerous examples of what we are to do personally:
- Love one another (v.9-10)
- Serve God and people (v.11)
- Joyfully trust God in patience and prayer (v.12)
- Be generous and hospitable (v.13)
- Show empathy toward people (v.15)
- Be people of peace (v.16a, 17b-18)
- Don’t be conceited – be gracious to everyone (v.16b)
- Show an otherworldly kindness to enemies (v.17a, 19-20)
Just imagine if the people of God lived this way in the world. What an overcoming of evil that would be. Though this wouldn’t totally eradicate evil, it would deal evil a drastic blow.
But, you may say, evil would still remain. And you would be right.
But it won’t remain forever. While we might wish that God would totally eradicate evil once and for all right now, we can trust that the day is coming (for more insight into this subject, maybe refresh yourself with this teaching from a few years back: http://thechapel.com/onlineviewing/?p=268). But until that great day comes, and it will, we have a purpose and responsibility given to us by God – to live in the brokenness and be reconcilers and healers. Jesus, the soon returning King, swallowed the wrath of sin and evil once for all at the cross and God demonstrated the sufficiency of that offering in the resurrection. And though the work of Christ on the cross was unique, we are still called to be people that follow the way of Jesus and live in the midst of the brokenness as ministers of reconciliation and healing. His grace, and life in us, will give us the power to do just that.
And lest we forget, in Romans 12 Paul reminds us that God Himself states that vengeance is left to Him (“It is mine to avenge, I will repay”). He will deal justly with evil and the perpetrators of evil at the right time, but at present He wants us to represent His heart for the world – even those who are evil.
11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Ezekiel 33:11
So are you doing your part? Are you living in such a way that your life, combined with the lives of other believers around you, is working to actively overcome evil with good? Are you a minister of reconciliation and healing? That is our call as the people of God.
These are just some thoughts for us to ponder at this time of national tragedy. While we think on these things, and work to implement them into our lives, we should also pray. And though you and I will pray many prayers on our own, this is a prayer that maybe you and I could join in praying together:
Father, we first ask that you would be the God of all comfort to those who have been injured, who have lost loved ones, and who have endured this senseless, evil tragedy. We pray for your grace to be evident to them and to all of those who are actively seeking to help them. And Lord, we pray for our President and all that serve him – that you would give them diligence and favor to be an administration that works for the good and protection of the citizens of our country, and that they would have discernment to bring to justice those who perpetrate evil. And Father, we ask that you would help all of us that call upon your name to be a people that reflect the image of Jesus to our world. May we be the kind of people described in Romans 12 so that we may do our part in overcoming evil. We pray for your return Jesus, when we trust that you will make all wrong things right, and all broken things better – but until that time, may we show the world your glory as the God who brings life even out of death. Amen.