Parent Spotlight: Boston Bombing Verdict

Parent Spotlight: Boston Bombing Verdict
Dzhkohar Tsarnaev was found guilty on all 30 counts in his trial regarding the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. (Read more here.) Does God still love someone like that? Some topics are just plain tough. Parents often wish kids never heard about these hard truths, but unfortunately, they do (and often at younger ages than we think). Each month in the Parent Spotlight we’ll discuss one of these facts of modern life, equipping parents for conversations with their kids. Since 9-11, terrorism has become part of American life. It saddens me to think kids are growing up with that knowledge. Still, even if we want to turn the clock back to a more innocent time, it's just not possible. All we can do now is to protect our kids and equip them to deal with it in the best way possible. Hearing accounts of terrorism, our first reaction is often strongly negative and sometimes shock itself. These responses are natural, but we have to be careful not to let them turn into bitterness and hate. Bitterness and hate chews us up inside and really does nothing to the person to whom these emotions are directed. They can weigh us down, rob our joy, and eventually consume us if we let them. How do we break that cycle? We can't on our own. David didn't face terrorism, but he spent many years on the run for his life. His pursuer had the scent of blood in his nostrils and would not stop. What was David's crime? He was tipped to take the place of the ruler out to get him. (Read more of just one of their encounters here.) David recorded his thoughts while he was on the run. Here is some of how he described his enemies:

They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance. They have tracked me down, they now surround me, with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground. They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a fierce lion crouching in cover.

Psalm 17:10-12 (NIV)

Elsewhere David gets more vehement:

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

Psalm 139:19-22 (NIV)

Then, in the very next verse, comes the twist:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

Sin is sin in God's eyes. It's a human thing to say this sin is worse than that one. All sin separates us from God and earns its consequences (see Romans 6:23). The good news is that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again, taking our punishment for sin.

But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:21-24 (MSG)

This free gift of forgiveness is offered to anyone who turns away from sin and believes in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. (See more here.) Yes, anyone. That includes murders like Dzhkohar Tsarnaev. Was what he did horrible? Yes. Does it deserve severe punishment? Yes. Is he beyond all hope? No.

Jesus never did anything wrong (John 19:4-6), yet He was executed on a cross with two criminals who had been given the death penalty for their crimes. As they hung on their crosses dying, they talked to each other. Look at the difference between these two men.

One of the criminals hanging there began to shout insults at Jesus: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Then save yourself, and save us too!” But the other criminal stopped him. He said, “You should fear God. All of us will die soon. You and I are guilty. We deserve to die because we did wrong. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you begin ruling as king!” Then Jesus said to him, “I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43 (ERV)
Both men had fallen short of God's perfect standard, but only one admitted it and turned to Jesus to save him. Because of this man's faith, Jesus saved him. The same is true for any of us, even Dzhkohar Tsarnaev. Part of us doesn't think this is fair. We want to see justice done and we want to see it NOW! Still, God is a just and fair judge. Punishment and consequences are made for every wrong anyone has ever done. The question is whether we allow Christ to advocate for us and say, "I will take the punishment for this person." Each of us has to make that choice for ourselves. We don't get off scott-free. There are still consequences in this life for our actions. The are consequences in the next as well. The difference is whether or not we allow God to transform us inside out. So how are we to react to people like Dzhkohar Tsarnaev?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies. Pray for those who treat you badly. If you do this, you will be children who are truly like your Father in heaven. He lets the sun rise for all people, whether they are good or bad. He sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. If you love only those who love you, why should you get a reward for that? Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than anyone else. Even the people who don’t know God are nice to their friends. What I am saying is that you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 (ERV)
It is hard to pray for our enemies, but sometimes I think prayers like this change us. We begin to see people the way God sees them. We also begin to let go of our anger, bitterness, and hatred. Perfect is a mighty high standard and none of us can do it on our own. Let's turn to the one who rescues us from our death penalty. Need help starting to pray for enemies and people like Dzhkohar Tsarnaev? Why not start by praying through a Psalm like 22. Read one line at a time and pray it back to God. Add any other thoughts that come to mind. Remember, God knows your heart anyway. Be honest and just talk to Him.
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