I’ve lived in New England since 1998 and I have to admit New Englanders are a tough, hardy people. There’s a certain pride that comes from living in this area. There is a heritage of independence, a respect for higher education, diversity, and free thinkers not to mention some of the best sports teams in the world. Work hard, better the community, play by the rules, do what you want but do no harm seems to be the general rule. When bad things happen, like the shooting in Sandy Hook, CT, and the bombing at the Boston Marathon, folks come together to help each other through the difficult days. Resilient? Yes. And you can count on it that, in response to these tragedies, there will be many hours invested in making things safer and better so in the future the traditions we love will be preserved and the community will remain.
The search for the bombing suspects kept us riveted to the news for days. An unprecedented city lockdown, a massive manhunt, and the take down and capture of the suspects were epic and the responses from the crowds were naturally those of thanksgiving and relief. Now Bostonians could lay their loved ones to rest and bring healing to the wounded and grieving. The day after the arrest, one person interviewed borrowed an insightful line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “This morning brings a gloomy peace.”
You have to admit that it is “gloomy” and I’m sure we will move on quickly…but not too quickly. We will get tired of the talking heads and political wrangling. We will tire of the constant reminders and get back to the better things of life and the dream of peace. If only these conflicts of life could be limited to the playing field of Fenway or the basketball court of the TD Fleet Center we could all manage them better.
So where does the gospel fit into all of this? We may want to consider first that there is no story without conflict. Try as we will, life will never be a place without conflict. As long as there are humans, you can count on us to hurt and maim one another. That in itself is a “gloomy” fact. Both man and nature were jettisoned into chaos when Adam pulled the sin trigger in the Garden of Eden--Act I of the prototype of all stories. Paradise was overshadowed by darkness, as was that sunshiny day on Boylston Street. Lives were indelibly marked on both days. Evil slithered away, cowards ran, and heroes rose. In every great story someone rises to meet the challenge and to confront the chaos caused by evil. In the gospel God sends a Savior--Act II--who confronts and defeats sin by giving His life.
I love the story of the Forum Restaurant’s staff, located at the epicenter of one of the blasts, who quickly began to assist those maimed by the bomb. In an interview one of them said, “We were at the wrong place at the wrong time but we did the right thing.” As believers we may look around our world and say it’s all wrong, it’s not the right time, but let us by God’s grace do the right thing. Cowards run but heroes arise. Another classic line I heard regarding how parents can talk to their children about tragedies came from our old friend Fred Rogers, whose video went viral this week as he quoted his mother’s advice, “When bad things happen, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
As we look for closure, it’s a whimsical dream to think there will ever be a time in this life where there will be no evil, no death, sorrow or pain. Try as we may in this life there is no return to Eden. But there is the promise. We need to remember the story is not over and the conflict has yet to play itself out. Few of us find joy in the battles of life, but in these days while our faith is tested and our characters purged let us remember the promise. Remember the selfless acts of bravery by those created in the image of God bearing his image as they do the right thing. As Christ arose victorious over the grave, he left us the promise that in the Father’s time He will bring us into the final act and that glorious day of restoration--Act Three. In that day when peace is restored and mankind is brought into the fullness for which it was created, there will be no end to the celebration of the Savior, for in that day “the gloom” will be no more.
Bruce James serves as the Evangelism Director for the Baptist Convention of New England, a network of over 300 churches working together to share the love of Christ in their region.