Yesterday was Patriot’s Day; the third Monday of April which commemorates the first battles of the American Revolutionary War (1775, Battles of Lexington and Concord). Notably, this day marking should not be confused with the Patriot Day of September 11. It was also “tax day”, the deadline for American citizens to render to Caesar what belongs to government. A day to mark freedom and the price of freedom became further underscored by the uncelebrated anniversaries of the Oklahoma City Bombing (April 19, 1995), the Waco tragedy (April 19, 1993), the Columbine School Shooting in Colorado (April 20, 1999), and lastly the Virginia Tech massacre (April 16, 2007). Two of the tragedies: Waco and Virginia Tech were on Monday of the Patriot’s Day of those years. And now yet again, the Boston Marathon Bombing on April 15, 2013.
The question everyone asked and is still asking: Why? The short answer is we do not know. However, I believe there is a spiritual backdrop of lessons that we can all learn. These are my thoughts and I list them below in no particular order and without intention to demean the victims of any of these days.
– Evil happens because there is evil in the world. We can all agree yesterday, along with the other events, was evil. The shock factor likely/hopefully hit everyone. Evil is meant to shock and jolt us to the reality of rightness and wrongness. Morality does exist and we all believe in a certain standard. The question we must ask on a daily basis is by whose morality are we living?
– The response to evil is both sadness and anger. My heart dropped to hear of yet another tragedy. It seems every month, or every other there is a mass attack of some sort. What is the world coming to? Where are we headed as a society? The responses on social media sites were immediate grief and sharing for prayer notification. After the sadness turned a focused indignation. How dare this happen on American soil!? Why would someone do this… they must be caught and punished to the fullest extent of the law. We demand justice at the occurrence of evil. The reminder continues that our sense of justice and anger toward evil stems from an inward moral conscience.
As Christian believers we entrust vengeance to the Lord (Romans 12:19) and to those He has appointed for such authority (Romans 13:1-4).
– Safety and security are an illusion in this temporary world. As I listened to the testimony of eyewitness reports on the news, a common theme was that people did not know where to go after the bombing. They stopped to process what was happening and ran… but to where? Many were from out of state and unfamiliar with the geography. Even locals were uncertain what would happen next – Was it safe to enter a building or a parking garage? Would they be safe out in the open space? No one was assured protection. Indeed, those who lost limbs and their lives understood the brevity this life has to offer.
As Christian believers, we know there is only one refuge. God is a rock, a fortress, shield and strength (Psalm 18:2). He is a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). He protects and keeps our life in light of all eternity (Psalm 121).
– Humbled. I am humbly reminded that in other parts of the world many endure violence and evil as a lifestyle. Malicious bombs explode on bodies, buses and houses with bloodshed spilt on a daily basis. I’m filled with humble gratitude that I live in America and that there are troops around the world who volunteer to protect my lifestyle of freedom. I’m also prayerful for Christian believers who suffer persecution for their faith.
– Compassion for people and a common sense of humanity unites us in times like these. As we watched the video scenes there were people running away from the horror but there were also people running towards the horror to help. The courage to face evil and the fear of the unknown is a beautiful expression as divine image bearers. In our humanity we know that we need each other and we belong one to another. There are tremendous stories of first responders – police officers, firefighters, medics and hospital doctors and nurses who rose to the call of duty, relied on their training and stepped up to serve the needs and heal the brokenness of lives.
This reminds me of a vision for God’s church. God’s people should not cower to the fear of death or hell but should be those running toward the darkness with the light & love, help & hope of God. It is in these times when the church can provide a sense of community and belongingness to our friends and neighbors. We can offer a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a word of encouragement, a cup of water in Jesus’ name. Christians should pray for the victims and their families to recover and receive comfort. Christians should pray for and support the churches and other community organizations to have the resources they need to care for the circumstances in the coming weeks. Admittedly it will take time but Christians should even pray for those who committed the crimes, that their hearts would be convicted of wrongdoing, confess their sin to face justice in this world and more so not to receive justice in the next but to experience undeserved grace (Romans 2:4; 1Timothy 1:15-16).
– A broken world longs for home. All of creation waits with eager longing for salvation to be completed. The brokenness of the world surrounds us on a daily basis, whether it is a public tragedy or a personal heartbreak; cancer can be just as big a bomb to many. In all, we must set our hopes on another world that will remove all the sin and sorrow of this world. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4)
– Hope starts today. In the face of evil, let us not grow weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9). Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). We do not have to wait and plod through this world grieving without hope. Faith in God provides strength and compels us to action in the immediate nitty gritty details of every day life. We must do the work of God’s kingdom while it is day, for night is coming when it will be too late to cross the finish line (John 9:4).
Boston image credit: cbsnews