Monday, April 15, 2013

How I Understand Today's Outrages in Boston from a Lutheran Christian Perspective

As a Lutheran Christian, I feel equipped by our Lutheran Confessions to understand and deal with events like the Boston Marathon bombings.

In the first place, human depravity and sin don't surprise we Lutherans. We understand original sin and how those unmoved by the grace of God given in Christ are left disarmed before the temptations to sin created by the devil, the world, and our sinful selves.

Secondly, we understand that because there are people who refuse to live voluntarily under the Kingdom of God ruled by the loving grace of Christ, God has established another means of rule: the kingdom of the world. This kingdom--the kingdom of governments and such--has every right and, in fact, every responsibility to bring the people responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings to justice. This kingdom is meant to act as a bridle on the sinful actions of those whose lives are not being reconstructed by the grace of God in Christ.

Thirdly, we understand that even when the perpetrators of these bombings are apprehended, arrested, tried, and convicted, God will want them, even as they receive the punishment they deserve, to enter His kingdom through repentance and faith in Christ. When Jesus was crucified unjustly, neither the thief on the cross nor Jesus Himself denied that the thief deserved the criminal punishment that the thief received from the civil authorities. But when the thief asked Jesus, in an obvious statement of repentance and belief, to be remembered in Jesus' kingdom, Jesus promised him that on that very day, the thief would be with him in paradise.

Terrorism and murder can't go unpunished. Grace isn't a license to sin. But true justice is not revenge either. 
In a fallen world, justice meted out to those who commit acts of hatred is the duty of the kingdoms of the world.

In this same fallen world, grace is the gift of God and the response of God's people to those who repent and trust in Christ. 
A classic example of a Lutheran understanding of accepting God's two ways of ruling the world comes, ironically, from Pope John Paul II. The pontiff was the victim of a would-be assassin's bullet. John Paul recovered and his attacker was tried, convicted, and sent to prison. During Mehmet Ali Agca's prison term, the pope visited him. Their one-on-one meeting was recorded by a photographer. The attacker kneeled and asked for forgiveness from John Paul, which the pope granted. But after their meeting, as the TIME magazine cover article on forgiveness pointed out at the time, the pope left his assailant to finish his prison time. Both grace and justice were served. God must be allowed to rule over both His kingdoms.
May God's rule in both spheres--the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world--prevail in the wake of today's outrages in Boston.

[The sermon on April 7, dealt with the Lutheran understanding of the Bible's teaching on God's two kingdoms.]

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