The recent bombings at the Boston Marathon have been an echo of 9/11 for us.
Here is the humanity—the reflections of God—that we have witnessed.
In the face of injustice, we are a people who get angry. A number of comments from celebrities and other notables with Boston roots were angry ones, which is as it should be. And good anger doesn’t simply spew invectives against an enemy; it looks for ways to act. So there has been massive intelligence coordination, vigils for those lost, and resiliency among the organizers of the Boston Marathon and other large running events. Sometimes anger can be very good.
Those who are not directly involved, who have nothing they can “do” about what happened—we respond with compassion. We feel compassion for the city, the wounded, the families of those who were killed, and even for those on lock down during the subsequent man-hunt.
This compassion has the fingerprints of God—the grace of God—all over it. We could call it common grace, but it is still grace and it has been unmistakable in our corporate response.
When grace is given to humanity-at-large, we pause and take it in. As we do, we notice that there are some people who are uniquely burdened by this event. These are reflectors of God’s glory who are gifted in compassion, and there are many believers and unbelievers who are gifted in this way. Sometimes the pain of others gets etched on them and takes weeks to be sanded away, only to have it replaced by a dozen more tragedies, such as the tragedy at the fertilizer plant in Texas.
We are very thankful for those who express this gift. They experience mini-9/11’s every day, while the rest of us go about our business and keep our compassion more local. But every now and then, like this past week, we are all in sync and share a corporate compassion. That is as it should be.
The third expression of our corporate humanity is inevitable: fear rises. We might not attain the vigilance of those who have had tours of duty in Afghanistan, but we will, indeed, be more jumpy. Young men with backpacks and hoodies will cause us to walk away and tempt us to dial 911. If we can avoid walking by city trash cans, we will. And we will think twice about taking our kids to large sporting events.
This particular expression of our humanity puts us in the proper mindset to have compassion on so many people in the United States and the international community who today will hear bombs detonated and bullets fired nearby. It also allows us to understand the unstable world of the Old and New Testaments in which God spoke, “do not be afraid.”
Rest and Comfort
It is especially in this third response—in our fear—that Christians hope to find in this tragedy a redoubling of our confidence that God actually desires to lead us into rest—even on this side of eternity. Psalm 23 led King David and his people into rest, even when neighboring kingdoms were plotting to obliterate them. Psalm 23 led Jesus into rest and hope, even when those around him were successfully plotting his death. And now the Psalm is passed to us, with the intent that we become more interested in trusting our shepherd than in strategizing for personal protection.
And as we rest in our shepherd, we find comfort for ourselves and others:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)