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Responding to Boston

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I’m sure there will be many blog posts by people over the next several weeks about yesterday’s events in Boston. Like so many others, I was shocked to hear the stories and see the videos of people in anguish on a day usually reserved for celebration. It brought back memories of staring at my television as a freshman in high school, watching the last terrorist attack on American soil on September 11, 2001. It amazes me how quickly a day can turn from ordinary to life-changing and tragic. Even as the news was unfolding yesterday, it seemed that even the major networks took a while to fully grasp the magnitude of what had happened.
As I scrolled through my Facebook feed yesterday, I was astonished and appalled by some of the posts appearing by friends of mine. There were many “Pray for Boston” graphics and slogans, all of which are appropriate. However, I was disturbed by the continuation of posts that I saw months ago after the Newtown Massacre suggesting that America somehow had such tragedies coming for rejecting God. This idea was especially trumpeted by Mike Huckabee, who referred to God as a gentleman who won’t go where he isn’t wanted and may have removed his protection as a result.

Comments like these are calloused, heartless, and a poor representation of who God is. To begin with, God is not a southern gentleman with courtly manners. He is not contained, tamed, or wished away. Even in our rejection, he is present, good, and faithful (Ps. 139:7-12). He does not vindictively remove his protection from little children in an elementary school or from spectators in a public street corner because we elected pro-choice leaders.

Such carnage and twisted violence as we’ve seen on the news certainly results from the fall. As humans, we are broken and even creation groans for the day that everything will be made new again (Rom. 8:22). From hurricanes to terrorist acts, we see signs that our world is not right. But the Bible also clearly shows us that suffering is not necessarily the fault of the individual or the community. From Job to the blind man in John 9, we see that suffering is the necessary byproduct of our depravity but also stands as an opportunity for God to be glorified as he heals our pain. The suggestion that God is allowing innocent people to suffer as a result of our nation’s politics is not far removed from the same theology Westboro Baptist Church espouses.

Yesterday’s events were the result of a sick individual or group hell-bent on destroying innocent lives. As we respond to the tragedy in Boston and, unfortunately, the others that will likely come through the years, we must be careful how we do so.

Respond with Wisdom

As Christians, we must respond to these situations with an accurate view of God, ourselves, and the Bible. Many of the poor responses I see from Christians are influenced by ill-advised evangelical voices whose views are based more on conjecture and tradition than biblical reality. Rather than thinking critically about how these men and women are responding on TV and from their pulpits, we have the tendency to unquestionably take their words as truth. In reality, just stopping to reflect for five minutes is enough to realize that comments like Huckabee’s are theologically off base and hurtful to the victims. Unfortunately, when our knowledge of the Bible comes solely from what we hear from other people, discerning truth is difficult (but that’s a topic for another day).

Respond with Compassion

I love the story of Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life in John 11. While Jesus knew that he was going to bring him back, the family did not. When he finally arrived, Martha was dejected and regretting that Jesus hadn’t been there to save him. Even though Jesus knew what would happen next, he wept at the sight of the hurting family. He loved Lazarus and hurt for his loved ones.

Tragedies are never the time for political or theological debates. Yet so many Christians engage in them during times like these, not realizing how inappropriate it really is. I would hope that no one who claims to follow Christ would tell a grieving mother that her son died because our nation is becoming too secular. Comments like these aren’t any less insulting on Facebook either. Our job is to compassionately mourn with those who are hurting, not give them a theological lashing.

Respond with the Gospel

Since suffering is a reminder of our depravity, it’s an opportunity to speak of the hope we have in Christ. When facing death, we place our hope in Christ’s resurrection. In times of pain and loneliness, we can remember that he will someday finish what he began, making all things new. While God allows suffering, he takes no pleasure in watching us experience it. He came to save us from our sins and the damage they’ve caused. Whether it’s on Facebook or through a one-on-one conversation, we must communicate our hope with compassion and wisdom –nothing more, nothing less.

Posted in: Tragedy

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  • http://www.mattmorrison.org/ Matt Morrison

    Linda, thanks so much for the encouragement. It really means a lot. I appreciate you checking out the blog too! I hope you guys are doing well up there. Holly and I look forward to seeing you at the reunion!