This is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I lived through 9/11, but I was too young to write about it. I remember the tears on my art teacher’s face as the second building came down. I remember my mother grieving. I grieved, in my own naive way. And I prayed for justice.
Now, older and at least marginally wiser, I pray for forgiveness.
I hear already the resounding human response to every tragedy: “Where was God in all this?” Never mind that it doesn’t make sense to appeal to how things “ought” to be without an objective moral standard. When nothing goes wrong, no one thanks Him; when anything goes wrong, everyone blames Him. And no thanks, either, for the drastically reduced death count from our last massive terror attack. How merciful that out of the 27,000 runners and who knows how many spectators, only 3 dead and around 130 wounded. Are these terrible things? Yes. My heart breaks for those families who lost loved ones, and everyone affected by this calamity. At the same time, I am grateful that God, in His great mercy, restrained what could have been a massively more horrific event.
In the news coverage of this event that is now spilled an indelible crimson across our national consciousness, there are going to be many religious voices vying for attention. Westboro Baptist Church, true to the spirit of antichrist that rules them, has already begun spewing their violent, hateful rhetoric. Some voices will be raised to champion human unity, love, charity, and the like. However, as laudable as those ideas may be, none of them has the power to lay an axe to the root of the Boston Bombing.
In Luke 13, Jesus responds to some current events in His day. Listen to what He says about tragedy:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
(Lk. 13:1-5, ESV).
See, contrary to the WBC, Jesus says that tragedy striking is not indicative of whether or not the people upon whom it falls are more or less guilty than others. In fact, Jesus turns to those listening and says it is not because they were worse sinners that they suffered!
Tragedy cuts the legs out from under those who would judge, because it reminds us of the real problem: We are all guilty before God. In an attempt to weasel out of our shame, we use these horrific times as an escape. “Look how displeased God must have been with them, to visit anguish like that on their city.” But Christ shows us that sin is the great equalizer: Everyone is equally guilty. No one is a greater or lesser offender.
And so the messages of unity, hope, and love are not enough to overcome the problem: Sin. Again, those things are commendable, but to think they can fix the problem is to think you can cover the stench of a pigsty with a few rose petals. We must address the problem at the root, or we will never kill the tree.
Christ has an answer for us here: Repent — repent or perish.
Let this call ring out to those who have the ears to hear: Let us all repent of all those times which we have failed to love God, or love others as ourselves. Let us seek the forgiveness of the One whom we have wronged. Let us repent that we may not perish. And if God is so merciful as to lavish His grace upon us, to forgive us of our sins, and to forbear a little longer with this nation that many more may come to repentant faith and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins — if God be so merciful, should we not pray for those who visited this great horror on us?
Is this not still the God who does not delight in the death of the wicked? Is this not the same Christ who commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? And if He has loved sinners by dying for them, and prayed that the Father forgive us for our ignorance, should we not pray the same for these depraved men? After all, we’re all equally guilty. Whatever judgement you want to heap on their head, you and I deserve as well. Don’t get me wrong: I pray that these terrorists are caught quickly and put on trial for their crimes. But in terms of eternal souls, mine sure didn’t deserve saving, so I have no footing to stand on to say that theirs does not as well.
This is why the Gospel answers these horrors so well: Any time that we see the effects of sin take their course, we know that God is not sitting idly by simply allowing these things to occur. No, He has stepped down into history and taken upon Himself the “punishment that brought us peace” (Isaiah 53). And now, He is making all things new. Everything is rushing toward its ultimate, glorious consummation and glorification, when Christ will bring all things, even this, into subjection under Himself. Until that day, let us live in daily repentance and faith, so that we may be forgiven of our sins.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Only the Gospel offers this now and future hope. God bless you all. Pray for Boston — pray for forgiveness.
UPDATE: At 3 AM, when I originally posted this, I had not fully researched some of the various ways to support those affected by the Boston bombing. Now that i’ve had some time to do some research as to ways to help Boston, you can read about that here.