Become worthy of the message embedded in the Sermon on the Mount. – Mohandas Gandhi
The self-defensiveness of the righteous, predictably, has already begun. Obviously¸ the massacre in Boston was perpetrated by a) godless foreign terrorists, b) a godless domestic terrorist, or c) a generically bad person. We just need to a) arm ourselves, b) get prayer back in schools, and c) be thankful we’re not bad people and everything will be okay.
But only two things have any hope of resolving any of this. One, I believe, is the grace of God. Days like today make me appreciate Calvinism’s stubborn insistence on the sovereignty of God. And days like today really make me appreciate John Calvin’s stubborn belief in a good God, all apparent evidence to the contrary.
The other is that we ourselves must accept collective responsibility for perpetuating the evil that is altogether too prevalent and effortless in this world.
A wise friend of mine once told me that there are only two human emotions – love and fear. And a surfeit of one significantly limits the other. Jesus gets at this with his advice to “love your enemies.” Here’s the kicker though: we are the enemy. If we want to stop things like the Boston marathon massacre from happening every damn week in this country, we must start loving ourselves. And by love I don’t mean self-indulgence or self-congratulation. Love is genuine compassion and courageous integrity. As a society, we are short on both.
Rather than filling our hands with more guns and more magazines, we need to hold the hands of the bloodied and broken. Before gratifying our need for justice, we need to grieve the losses. Before crucifying, we need to cry.
And frankly, until we, as a people, acknowledge that the evil expressed in Boston today is an evil shared by all of us, until we admit that we are all shattered creatures, until we publically lament our common brokenness together, and unless we stop pointing fingers as if sin is something relative, this shit will continue until no stone is left atop another.
As much as many of us hate to admit it, Jesus of Nazareth had one helluva point when he delivered the Beatitudes – which is Latin for “blessings,” by the way – two thousand years ago. My own words seeming somewhat inadequate in the wake of America’s massacre du jour, I’ll leave the last words to the author of the book of Luke:
‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’[i]