How do you deal with tragedy?
In the wake of the Boston Bombings many people are struggling to make sense of what happened. As of the last news conference I heard, there are three dead and more than 100 wounded from the two bombs that exploded on the sidewalks of Boston near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. And just about everyone involved from the Mayor to the President is saying the same thing, we will discover who did this and why.
We want to know. We need to know. Who could have committed this crime against innocent civilians? The aged and the very young, men and women, runners and by-standers injured and killed and maimed with no regard for who or what. We want a face. We need an identity. We seek a villan. But we also want to know why they did what they did. How could they have planned and carried out this act, knowing all along, that it would inflict incredible damage and loss of life? What brings a person to a place where they could kill those they don't know for reasons that they are uninvolved in?
Let me suggest to you that knowing who and why will not stop events like this from happening in the future, nor will it bring us any real closure or peace. We will simply know. But we will not have peace.
We need to know who was behind this because that is the only way we can, "bring them to justice." Which is really just another way of saying that they will get what's coming to them. And that really is about vengeance Retaliation. Retribution for their crimes. And we want to know why because that is how we process things like this. If the person or people involved are crazy we can dissmis them and this act as desperate and we can relax knowing that there are only a few crazy people in the world - the sane would never do anything like this. If the perpetrators were seeking to terrorize then we will blame religion or fanaticism and lump whole nations of people together as those who should be feared.
But reality is, whether crazy or terrorists or opportunists or carrying out some agenda the root of this act is firmly embedded in evil. Evil. Not religion. Not marginalized individuals. Not the desperate act of the insane. Evil. No matter what the "reason" the reason is, evil. And where evil exists, as it does in this world, there will always be people who carry it out.
So what is our response then? If the who, only allows us vengeance and the why is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things how do we respond to what we've seen?
First, do not fear.
Fear seeks to control by force. When we react in fear we succumb to the terror of the event even if we were not directly involved in it. Those who would attack anyone, from a bully to a nation rely on fear. Where there is fear there is control. Most acts of terror whether on the playground or the world-stage are committed first to instill fear and second to inflict damage.
Do not fret because of those who are evil...
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear...
When actions like this happen it rallys people, but often around the wrong things. We become united in our stand against terror. We come together to seek justice. We are bound together by our disgust. But as we saw after 9/11, rallying to these banners quickly dissipates. Once a villain is found, once the why is discovered the ties that bound us begin to lose their grip. So we must rally together for something that will last beyond the event - trust. We can trust that God is involved and watching over the events and that His heart is grieved by evil as is ours. And we can trust that He will exact vengeance where it is needed and that His punishment is forever harsher than anything we could come up with.
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.
Third, refrain from retaliation.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't pursue justice. We have laws and will enforce them and have many people in the FBI, ATF, Homeland security and other organizations who will work diligently to discover who did this and bring them to justice. But you and I should refrain from retaliation. Much like the days and weeks following 9/11 there will be increased violence against anyone of Middle Eastern decent. I heard that a plane was rerouted and landed today because two men, not sitting together were speaking in Arabic Now, it could have something to with the evens of yesterday, but they could have also simply been talking with someone else who happened to speak their language. I guarantee that if you were on a plane full of people in a country foreign to you, you would talk to the other person who appeared to speak your language. Too often anger and retaliation only inflame the situation and do not bring peace.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.
Finally realize that evil exists in this world. Evil is the reason terror exists. Evil is the incubator for crimes against the innocent. Evil always seeks to steal, kill and destroy. It was evil that brought about the events of 9/11. Evil was behind the massacre at SandyHook. Evil was the seed that led to yesterday's attack and evil will be at the heart of every act of terror that has yet to be perpetrated wether on U.S. soil or elsewhere. The other option?
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Jesus came because evil existed. He died at the hands of the evil, for the purpose of evil and the perpetuation of evil. But He rose again to defeat evil and offer hope. Evil could not keep Him in the ground. That is why good will always overcome evil. Peace will always overcome hate. Love will always be a more powerful emotion than fear. Trust that God sees it all and will keep an account of all those who pursue and perpetuate evil. Trust that, in Jesus, death no longer brings fear but hope. That Jesus, if He is lifted up as the reason we pursue peace instead of hate, good instead of evil, love instead of fear, will draw all men to Himself. And remember that Jesus went to the cross at the hands of evil men to pay the price for your sin so that there is no longer any retaliation for the evil that you and I have committed. Let the law of the land bring justice to those involved, but seek repentance and ultimate salvation for those who both killed and were killed.
Luke 6:27, 28
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.