In expressing sympathy for the victims of yesterday’s bombing in Boston, I think it is also worth expressing sympathy for the victims of attacks by the American government which killed 17 Afghans and 5 Pakistanis, respectively, and the terrorist attacks which killed 75 in Iraq yesterday. Each and every one of these individuals was inherently valuable and their deaths are tragedies.
As a follower of Jesus, I obviously believe whole-heartedly that his teachings are true. Furthermore, I believe they are true and worthy of consideration for everyone – not just Christians. Just as I believe that there is great wisdom to be found in many of the world’s religious traditions, I believe that folks of all religious stripes can learn from the teachings attributed to Jesus, regardless of what they may believe concerning his historical existence or divinity or lack thereof.
In light of the tragedy at the Boston marathon today, I think that Jesus has some particularly prescient wisdom to offer.
Matthew 5:9: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:38-39: You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Matthew 7:1-4: Jude not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is a log in your own eye. You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Luke 6:27: But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Luke 6:37: Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Romans 12:14-21: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
All of this to say, when tragedy strikes, we would do well to respond with love and forgiveness; to not be judgmental or retaliatory; and to remember that we are not perfect, that we too are guilty of horrible crimes, and that only the one who is perfect can judge the imperfect. We must not repay evil for evil, but should love all, regardless of who, what, when, where, why, or how, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. And we must remember that Christ died for and loves with an unfathomable depth even the perpetrators of the most horrible crimes, though their actions break his heart more deeply than we know. But those individuals still have just as much inherent value as human beings as any of us. Therefore, let us not retaliate in kind; seeking vengeance which is not ours to take; repaying a wrong with a wrong, whereby we would became perpetrators of the same crimes. Means must be consistent with ends, and if our end is peace, so too must our means be peaceful.