Friday, April 19, 2013

Sin and Grace in Boston

So last night, as I was thinking about going to bed, my younger son woke up and started crying for Mama. Well, Mama was sound asleep and I wanted her to stay that way, so I got my son and snuggled him by the computer. That meant that I had to poke around and find something quiet to do. I checked some of the blogs I read for new content (and, at midnight, I didn't find any; go figure). I tried to play Plants vs. Zombies with the sound off, but that woke him up and he excitedly said, "Zombies!" And finally I clicked over to Twitter.

And I saw a slew of tweets about a dead police officer and an explosive chase in Massachusetts.

Seeing as it was midnight, I wasn't about to turn on the TV. For one thing, I knew it'd wake up my son. For another, I knew that in the chaos of the moment, there'd be a lot of speculation and very few facts. So I kept rocking and snuggling until he went to sleep.

I had to get up early this morning to shovel my driveway thanks to the mid-April snowstorm Minnesota experienced. Before I could get outside, my wife told me that the news was reporting that the people involved in the shootout and the car chase were suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, that one of them was in custody (we didn't know that he had died at the time) and the other one was still at large. I nodded and went to get my boots on.

As I did, I started thinking about that bombing suspect and what I wanted for him. And I knew what I wanted. Pain. Death. Retribution. He had attacked our people, and he should experience some of the hell that he put his victims, their families, and our whole nation through.

But then, as I started clearing away the new fallen snow, a different thought invaded my mind. One that made me uncomfortable. One that made me rethink my initial, visceral reaction.

Is that really what a Christian should want?

I kept shoveling but, as I did, I wrestled with this idea. These men, whoever they were (at the time, I didn't know that they were brothers, I didn't know that they were Chechen,  I knew very little), were evil, wicked men. Why else would they have planted those bombs? If anyone deserves "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" treatment, it's these despicable vermin.

And yet, I couldn't get away from that thought.

Is this really what I should want as a Christian?

It's hard for me to admit and even harder for me to say. I fully expect people to disagree vehemently with me. But didn't Christ say that eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, is the opposite of the way we should be living? Didn't He say something about turning the other cheek? About praying for our enemies and forgiving them?

I know it's hard to do. I love bearing a grudge and I'm particularly fond of seeing people I don't like getting what they deserve. But if I am a Christ-follower, if I am a Christ-imitator, then my reaction to Boston is not to revel in the death and destruction of sinful human beings. Instead, it should be to offer forgiveness and hope that the grace of God can turn two lost and fallen men into children of God.

Does that mean that I think that they should get off the hook? Not at all. While the cross of Christ may erase our eternal punishment, we still have to face the consequences of our sins in the here and now. And as St. Paul says in Romans 13, the government does bear the sword for the punishment of evildoers. But I'm not the one holding the sword.

Instead, I think I'll do the following instead and I invite you to join me:

  • To continue to pray for and support the victims and families of these men
  • To pray for the families of the bombers as well. I suspect that they're hurting and confused as well. If they're not, I'll pray that they come to see the error of their ways.
  • To pray for the bomber who has yet to be caught. Not only will I pray for him to be found before he can hurt anyone else, but I also plan to pray for him to see the error of his ways and repent as well.
  • To make sure that I don't fall for "guilt by association," that I won't treat anyone who might share these brothers' worldview any differently than I would want to be treated.
  • To pray for peace in our fractured world, to join with the groaning creation in the ancient cry, "Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly."

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

This is similar to a journey I had to take, although yours came much quicker. Maybe I needed to shovel some snow.

A girl from my hometown was kidnapped, probably raped and killed. It took more than 5 months to find the body. The suspect was arrested almost immediately. He was a high-level repeat sex offender.

He currently sits in a prison, sentenced to death. Every time there's a new news story about him, about appeals and so forth, people from my hometown, people on Facebook cheer. Are glad that he'll get what he deserved. I followed the trial as much as anyone.

But somewhere along the line, I felt uncomfortable. I started feeling sad for him. Wondered if anyone visited him, tried to share Jesus' love with him. I almost wanted to be the person to do that, but I always also wondered if I would be seen a traitor if the hometown found out. We all hurt together. But surely he was/is hurting too.

Anyway. Like I said, this was a process of several years.

It's so hard to be counter cultural sometimes.