Today at 2:50pm two bombs went off in my city. These bombs, designed to injure, did their work. At least two were killed, and hundreds were injured. All of this leaves us with questions. Who did this? More desperately, why?
The Boston Police will, along with the FBI, launch a full-scale investigation. And the brave and gifted officers and investigators will doubtless find the individuals responsible. After that, pundits and politicians will start to work on policy changes to insure this doesn’t happen again. Then, when time has passed, other politicians will use this as an issue to show their side has the answers.
But behind all of that work, much of good, lies the why. Deeper than culture. Deeper than religion. Deeper than policies, nations, kings, money, and every other reason we will hear in the coming days to explain this act of violence lies the reason truest of all: sin. All of us—friends and enemies, kings and peasants—are touched and marred by this realty. We are all alike fallen from grace. And now, having our visions skewed, perpetrate actions of sin against one another from a cloudy heart which all the while believes itself to be in the right. The broken breaking the broken.
And yet, tragedy like this shows us another aspect of ourselves. It’s the part we see when perfect strangers run headlong into the smoke of fresh explosions to help their fallen neighbors. We see it when a man removes his shirt to dress a wound. A doctor manages his ER in the face of overwhelming injury. A citizen opens his home to those without one tonight. We are all alike fallen, this is true. And yet there’s more to us. We are also image-bearers. There’s something of God—his likeness—which comes out even in the darkest of moments. Especially in them.
And this duality should tell us something. We are fallen, but not merely. We are a race of insurgents against God made in the image of the very God against whom we’ve rebelled. Love, art, charity, grace—these are ours because they were given to us by Him. So what are we to make of it all? What are we to think when tragedy mingles with beauty? When pain accompanies grace? When blood spills with tears? We could start by calling to mind the cosmic event wherein this happened first and finally.
There was one who not only showed us the image of God, but was His exact likeness. He, shining like the sun, brought grace and truth, kindness and undeserved mercy. And… He also experienced the deepest and darkest violence humanity has ever accomplished—the destruction of the image of God, Christ himself. There, tragedy mingled with beauty, pain accompanied grace, and the blood of God himself spilt along with his tears. The gospel shows us that, in Christ, darkness, selfishness, terror, sin, and depravity can be and will be once and finally overcome. That’s the hope—the only hope—for the deepest why of pain.
Tonight I’m praying for my great city. I’m praying that the image of God within her will rise above the brokenness which marks her. But, cosmically speaking, there’s only one way that happens—and it’s not when we simply look within. The deep problem lives within too. The image of God within us must connect—or reconnect—with the likeness of God sent for us, Jesus himself.
Yes, tonight I’m praying for my city. I’m praying for the victims. I’m praying for the first responders. I’m praying for families. But most of all, I’m praying for that grace which comes from God alone to overcome all that besets her.
Please, pray with me.