What a week this has been – every day it seems been something tragic has filled the airwaves. Yesterday I watched with fascination at the events unfolding surrounding the capture of one 19 year old kid. A city shut down and thousands of law enforcement on the search, and the nations glued to the coverage.
At the end of the day they got him. And rejoicing was everywhere. People rushed the streets in fanfare. Twitter and Facebook blew up with shouts of gladness and praise that the enemy had been captured.
And I was quiet.
I was happy that he had been found, and the people of Boston could rest soundly that night. I was thankful, so incredibly thankful for the men and women who had worked tirelessly to find him. However, at the end of those thoughts my heart was sad for this young man and his brother. I know I just made a lot of people angry with that statement but it is an honest one. My heart was sad that at some point they had both chosen a path of destruction and evil rather than a path of life. They had been fed lies and believed them enough that they took action – action that took lives and wounded people, a city and a nation. I believe this was wrong and I believe that the one captured should face consequences that are due to him for these actions. But I cannot – will not – call this man my enemy. And I will not rejoice in the destruction of his life.
As a believer in Christ – I have but one enemy. Scripture teaches me that I “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” It also teaches that but for God’s grace and God’s grace alone I could have been one of those boys. I could have been raised to believe that a nation was my enemy. I could have been taught that the only way to defeat this enemy was to strike terror and mayhem into the hearts of its people. I could have been told that if I was brave, if I was a true soldier, I would help destroy these enemies and conquer these people. By God’s grace I was not.
I find that often as Christians (and my finger is pointing right to my own face first here) we listen to the testimonies of completely transformed lives in awe and wonderment, yet don’t believe that it can be the same for others. The stripper who walked off stage for good, renounced her old life and gave it to Christ; the murderer who took lives without a thought, found Christ and now leads worship in prison while he sits on death row; the man who beat his wife daily, who came to Christ and now honors her with his every breath; the married couple who divorced due to adultery and then found Christ and each other all over again; the church goer who stopped playing at the hobby of Christianity and now walks in a life thoroughly transformed by the gospel. YES and AMEN! We as Christians rejoice for “one who was lost, and is now found.” We look on the beautiful thing that God has done and clap and shout and dance, and yet in looking at the beauty we often forget what their (our) lives looked like before the Hope that is Christ entered in.
How often do we walk out of a service where we have listened to such a story and condemn the next person we see that walks in a life that they once lived? I do it all the time! I rejoice in the story of redemption, but I forget the work that it took to get there. I forget that in order to have come to this monumental life change Christ had to die, and someone had to love them enough to share the life changing Gospel of Christ with them! Meanwhile I stood on the corner in my pretty church clothes and judged who they were.
Someone, somewhere prayed for that stripper, murderer, wife beater, divorced couple, and church goer. Someone cried out daily for them. Tears of anguish were wept as a friend or family member looked at the lives they were leading and thought that all was lost. Despair set in that this is how they would be and they would never change, but they kept praying. They kept praying because they knew deep down that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood.” They knew that the one and only enemy of this world had fed lies that were believed and that same enemy had a hold on the souls of those that they loved. They also knew that that enemy has already been defeated by a crucified Christ and with that Hope they kept praying through their defeat and dispair. Because of those prayers and sacrifices the stripper is now a teacher, the murdered now a worship pastor, the wife beater an encourager, the divorced couple remarried and the hobby christian now sold out to Christ.
So today, I will take up that charge for this young man. While a nation hates him I will pray for him. I will pray that somehow someone will show him the Truth of the gospel. That he will understand the grace, mercy and love of Christ for his life and that he too only has one enemy. I realized that I may lose friends over this stance and I may even find those who will hate me because of it, but in my heart I know I must. I will pray for this man’s salvation.
I am not asking that he does not face consequences for his actions. I believe in the justice system and that he should have to pay. I am not belittling the crime that was committed, the lives lost and the lives destroyed because of what he has done. My heart is broken for those who lost their lives, and I have spent this entire week praying for the people of Boston, and I will not stop praying for them! When the camera crews go home and there is new “breaking news”, when people have moved on, I will still weep with those who have been left to clean up the destruction, and for those who will never recover from this seemingly senseless tragedy. For all of those I mourn and pray. As I wrote earlier this week, my heart’s cry is that those whose worlds have been rocked by this week’s events will come to know the One who is Hope.
But for this young man, too, I will pray. Except for God’s grace – I am he…and my heart’s cry is that someone would do the same for me.