April 16, 2013
Boston Bombs and the Image of God
My city’s recent tragedy highlights humanity’s dual nature.
Yesterday at 2:50 p.m., my city was attacked. Two bombs exploded,
terrorizing thousands. At least two people were killed, and hundreds were
Members of the congregation I pastor were on the fringes of danger. Some
were running in the marathon. One of our young ladies crossed the finish
line just before the blasts. Another followed just behind her. Surgeons in our
church were pulling all-nighters to help. Food service workers stayed longer
hours, just to serve the millions of guests something to eat. Our college
students left their dorms just blocks from the blasts, offered blankets, cell phone
chargers, anything they could to help. Tonight, I’ll be speaking to hundreds of university students at MIT, trying to cope with the events of the previous day.
The fog of chaos has lifted a bit today, but we’re still left with questions. Who did this? How? And more desperately, why?
Tragedies like this one show us the striking duality that exists in our race. Humanity was reminded yesterday just how deformed the human soul can be. There is a dark, fallen part of our nature that exists at a place deeper than religion, deeper than politics, deeper than economics—far deeper than every reason we will be given to explain this event in the coming days. It is sin.
All of us—friends and enemies, kings and peasants—are touched and marred by this reality. We are all alike fallen from grace and are capable of perpetrating sinful actions against one another while believing ourselves to be in the right. We become, then, the broken further breaking the broken.
But this is only one side of the story. True, we are broken, but we are not only broken. Yesterday’s events also showed us something of beauty, grace—of God Himself. We saw it in the man who gave his shirt to dress a bloody wound and in first responders who ran into harm’s way to rescue perfect strangers. We heard of it in citizens who opened their homes to strangers for the night. The light of the image of our maker shone forth through the smoke of fresh bomb blasts. Why? Because, in our fallenness, we still bear the image of the creator against whom we’ve rebelled. And today, as the fog clears a bit, many are left asking, what sense are we to make of this? What are we to do?
Certainly there is much to do. My own church is doing quite a bit—prayer vigils, personal counseling, fundraising, blood donating. We want to do something... anything. We know this is not the way things should be, and we want to do something about it. And that knowledge—knowledge of the deep why—should be allowed to speak to us for a moment.
The dissonance between the deep why of our fallenness and the deep who of our nature as image-bearers should tell us at least three things. First, we should see clearly that things are not as they should be. That such things as this bombing happen at all is evidence in itself that we are not living in God’s perfect world. Additionally, we should observe how we all know—in a place so deep we can barely explain it—that the light conquers the dark. Every culture’s greatest stories teach us this. We’re hardwired by our creator to know that grace and truth should always conquer the darkness. We saw so yesterday in so many brave and selfless actions.
Finally, the dissonance should make us look up, not within. While it is true that the image of God resides within us, so does the darkness. So where, ultimately, does our hope reside? What can be said to those students at MIT tonight... to my church full of eager, questioning faces on Sunday morning?
Our eyes should lift off ourselves to the one who more truly revealed the nature of God to us, because he was and is God. He, shining like the sun, brought grace and truth, kindness and undeserved mercy. And… He also experienced the deepest and darkest violence humanity has ever accomplished—the destruction of the image of God, Christ himself. In the gospel we were shown how the deep why of pain is, was, and will one day forever be conquered by the One who revealed God’s nature most clearly to us. This gospel shows us that, in Christ, darkness, selfishness, terror, sin, and depravity can be and will be once and finally overcome. That’s the hope—the only hope—for the deepest why of pain.
So what shall I say to the students? To the citizens? To my friends? I’ll tell them the gospel, and I'll tell them of the only one who can cause the image of God within us to overcome our defining brokenness. Only when the image of God within us connects to the Son of God sent for us will we experience change. This is my prayer for my city, my words for my friends, and my hope for the future.
Adam Mabry is the lead pastor of Aletheia, a church in Boston, Massachusetts.