For Christians in the United States and across the world, the morally reprehensible acts at the Boston Marathon on Monday are where the rubber meets the road – Jesus-style.
I’ve already read more comments than I can stomach – they run along the lines of “our vengeance will be swift and will be without mercy” – concerning those who are responsible for the bombings.
I understand if you want to have revenge against the culprit(s), or if you desire our government to take that revenge – as President Obama promised to do. I don’t question the sincerity or sorrow or anger that bears such thoughts.
Where it troubles me is when these comments are inextricably linked to a Christian identity. It’s like when Jesus reminded the crowds that you “cannot serve both God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). I believe it’s the same here: you can either cry out for a revenge without mercy, or you can follow Jesus. You cannot do both.
I say this with a hope that those responsible be brought to justice. But, as usual, once I think I have an easy answer, Jesus comes in and questions it. He challenges me. ”Love your enemies, and pray for them,” echoes in my head.
Christianity is constantly at odds with the powers that be – this is most apparent in its infancy, before Constantine adopted this fledgling, outcast religion some 1,700 years ago (or, as some scholars note, before Christianity adopted the agenda of empire).
The United States of America is the most powerful country in the history of history, and you can be sure that it will defend itself against enemies, both foreign and domestic. And I write as one of its privileged citizens.
But I am Christian first. And that citizenship challenges me to remember that we are called to be peacemakers, that Jesus responded to the epidemic of violence and vengeance in his society only and always with love. Exclusively so.
And Christianity doesn’t just challenge me. It challenges the powers who will decide what happens in the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston. It challenges the American gospel of redemptive violence.
And it challenges us to see how far our love can go.