Where is our Safety - The Boston Marathon Bombing

What an unbelievable scene for Boston or anywhere in America? Exploding bombs? A car chase with hand grenades and pipe bombs thrown out the window? A firefight with 200 rounds of gunshots in the middle of Watertown. Terror and fear grip the people as a massive manhunt shuts down an entire city. Young, confused, misguided and hate-filled terrorists creating chaos and threatening innocent civilians, with even children as victims. For this past week, Bostonians experienced a tiny taste of what many people worldwide live through on a daily basis. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Colombia, Mexico, Congo, Sudan and the list could go on. So many people live daily under a very real threat of sudden violence, terror and death which changes the lives of innumerable people forever.

Since 9/11, a very different reality confronts not only us Americans, but has created a new normal for the world. We live in a world of hatred and terror that seems to have no bounds. Now the truth be said, this world of terror is still something so far removed from most Americans. We can read about it in the newspapers or on the internet on a daily basis if we choose, but the more often it happens worldwide, the less attention our media seems to give it, and many of us choose not to take much time to reflect on this horrible reality.

Anger, hatred, terror, fanaticism – in the recent events of Boston, we taste the contemporary forms of ages old evil. We live in a fallen world which is now a small global village where we are all connected with one another. The dangers and threats of hatred can no longer be confined by any borders or limits.

So, how, as Christians, can we confront this new reality?  Will we live lives of fear and uncertainty? Will we allow terrorists to paralyze us? Will we respond to hatred and terror with our own forms of hatred and desires for retribution? As people of God, we must take care, for hatred can breed new forms of hatred. When our security is threatened, violence can tempt us to our own forms of violence.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must turn to Him for comfort, direction and guidance. Two thousand years ago, Jesus lived in a reality filled with horrible injustice, cruel violence and raw evil. And yet, He challenged His followers to live lives always remembering two fundamental principles: to never live in fear, but to find peace and comfort in His presence; and to never respond to evil with evil, but to offer divine love that could transform hated enemies into beloved brothers and sisters.

Never live in fear! A common word we hear throughout Holy Scriptures is this – Do not fear, for I am with you… Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)… Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)… If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you… In Me you have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 15:18; 16:33)… For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love. (2 Timothy 1:7)… Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God… There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:7,18)

In our post 9/11 world, violence and evil threaten our lives, yet Christ reminds us that when we walk with Him, we have nothing to ever fear. If God is with us, and more importantly, if we are with God, we can face each day with peace and security. The safest place to be is in the will of God, daily walking with Him and dwelling in His presence. If we are with God, there is nothing to ever fear! Now this doesn’t imply that we are safe from every violent and evil act, but it does means that God is with us and will keep us in His care. Although many of us don’t like to think about this, the reality is that death will come to all of us sooner or later. Death is a despised and an unwanted visitor, and yet, whether we want it or not, it will come to us. If we are truly united with Jesus Christ, however, death itself is nothing to fear. Our faith in Christ allows us to laugh at the greatest evil, death itself, and to taunt death as the Apostle Paul did – Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?... Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

If we have no fear of death, but choose to dwell in the peace and security of God’s will, then the threat of unexpected violence and terror dissipate. The evil and hate-filled actions of others won’t ever control our lives, and fill us with fear. Always remember, fear is not from God!  I came to give you an abundant life – a life of peace, of love, of security. The question is never whether God is with us. He is always with us! The central question is whether we are with God? And if we are with Him, there is nothing to ever fear!

The second fundamental principle the events of this past week should lead us to reflect on is how our Lord taught His followers to never respond to evil with evil, but to live lives of divine love that could transform hated enemies into beloved brothers and sisters.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)… Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44)… Love one another, as I have loved you (John 15:12).

Here lies the most radical teaching of Jesus! Christianity does not teach “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” That was a message from the Mosaic law. Retribution and revenge reflects the desires of our fallen human nature, and the truth be told, such justice is a part of other world religions. Jesus Christ, however, proclaims the divine Gospel, the Good News that divine love is greater than our fallen human desires and passions for human justice and vengeance. Divine love has the power to transform hated enemies and broken individuals into new creations – people who discover the divine image into which they were created. Every person is a child of God, created in His image and likeness, and with the potential to become a renewed being of love.

So as we reflect on the tragedies of this past week, let us pray for the souls of those who have died, let us lift up to the Lord all individuals and families who have been injured and traumatized by these horrible events, but let us also even pray for the lost and misguided terrorists who live in a dark world of hatred.

As followers of Jesus Christ and as Orthodox Christians, reflect on these past days and remember the two fundamental principles our Lord challenges us to always live with. First, never allow fear to control our lives, but live in peace and tranquility, safe within the presence of God’s love. And second, don’t give in to the temptation of our fallen human nature to respond to evil with evil, or hatred with hatred. Instead, allow God’s divine love to grow within us, so that we can offer only love to the world around us, love that can transform hated enemies into beloved brothers and sisters.

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