When Tragedy Strikes: A Christian Response
On April 15, 2013 the news was flooded reports out of Boston, MA. that two bombs had exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and wounding more than 260. There were people from many different places present, including several from my current city of Lethbridge Alberta. In this situation, and others like it, all sorts of questions begin to form: what happened? Are there more attacks coming? Who is responsible? Are my friends and loved ones okay? Why would someone do such a horrible thing? We get drawn into a swirl of emotion, encountering fear, panic, grief, anger, and perhaps even hate as we search for answers.
A natural response in times like these is the desire for justice. We want to know who is responsible, why they did it, and hold them accountable. In the case of the Boston bombing, authorities discovered that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were responsible. Tamerlan was killed in a gunfight with Police while Dzhokhar was arrested days later. But why did they do it? Speculation has abounded and in this new story from MSN Canada News, it is proposed that these two were “angry about wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the deaths of Muslim civilians there.” Further, there are allegations that jihad may have had a role – which, according to Irving Hexham is “a holy war or striving with infidels by force or intellectual persuasion to make converts.” Whether this was in-fact the case or not, we do know that many atrocities are committed in the name of religion. Be it holy wars, acts of terrorism, or even vicious verbal attacks, religious beliefs deeply impact people and influence their actions.
Amidst all the questions being asked in this situation, one I would like to propose is how should we as Christians respond? How can we show compassion, grace, and love to those who murder other people having no regret, even feeling justified in their actions? This is not an easy question, but here are a few thoughts:
1) We must guard our hearts. Often in these situation we want justice, and rightfully so. However, all too often our craving for “justice” is really us seeking retaliation, revenge, and payback. If we’re caused pain, we want to cause pain bad – an eye for and eye mentality grips us and we seemingly forget that ultimately God is our judge and He indeed is just. Romans 12:19 says “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.
2) We need to work on forgiveness. God has offered each of us an amazing grace and he freely forgives us of all sins when we confess them (1 John 1:9) and he asks us to do the same with others, even going as far to say that we should love our enemies (Matthew 5). Forgiveness leads to healing and prevents bitterness from destroying us from the inside out.
3) Finally, we need to remember that people are watching us and our reactions are a witness to others. What a powerful testimony to the work of God in our lives if we don’t become blood-thirsty but instead pitch in with relief efforts, help those injured or affected, and promote a message of grace. There is enough hatred and pain in the world, let’s instead sow seeds of love, compassion, grace, and forgiveness. In the words of my friend Randy Carter “Give them heaven, because people get enough hell from the world.”
In times of tragedy and pain, we as Christians have the awesome privilege and responsibility to be the hands and feet of Christ in our world. In the words of Paul, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” Galatians 6:9