Next Monday is perhaps the most important day of the year for distance runners in America. It marks Patriots Day, the third Monday of April, when the entire city of Boston shuts down and the eyes of the world look to see who will win the coveted Boston Marathon. Crowds line the streets, proudly cheering for the more than 26,000 runners who have made the journey to run their race. It is quite the day. Quite the race. Quite the accomplishment for any runner who meets the strict qualifying criteria necessary to even toe the starting line.
Two years ago, two brothers forever changed that day and what it means to Bostonians, runners and Americans. As those crowds anxiously awaited finishers – who were not only runners, but husbands, wives, daughters, sons and friends – the unthinkable occurred and what should have been a moment of euphoria turned to panic. Three people lost their lives that day and more than 280 were injured. And the entire world was left in shock.
News of the bombing stopped me in my tracks. I immediately remembered standing on Boylston Street, directly across from where the bombing occurred, waiting to welcome my husband and friends in that finishing moment. Then I thought of my Columbia runner friends who were there now competing. I feared for them and for many of my co-workers in Boston, as my employer at the time was headquartered there. Thankfully, I did not know anyone who was physically impacted by the bombings. But even though I didn’t know them, it doesn’t make the tragedy any less digestible. Even today, my heart breaks for those who hurt or killed and for their loved ones.
I also mourn the loss of security that was from us all that afternoon. Whether or not you’ve ever ran a mile in your life, each one of us senses that those events forever shape the simple pleasures of life moving forward.
So next week will be the second running of the Boston marathon since that fateful day. It could also be the same week that the convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev receives his sentence for the 30 convictions a jury handed down on April 8. Seventeen of those crimes, which he committed “to right the injustices of the American government against Muslims,” could send him to death row.
I’ve been intrigued and surprised by the seemingly overwhelming calling of Americans for him to receive the death penalty. A poll released this week indicates that 70% of Americans believe he should be put to death as a means of justice for his actions.
Whether you agree with the majority of Americans or not on this subject, I think we would all agree that there is some relief in knowing that it is a decision we ultimately will not be responsible to make. We are not called to evaluate the parameters of the law in order to determine just what justice looks like in this situation.
The scary part for me, however, is that I am called to do this same process – to a much less degree and weightiness – everyday. Every day, whether I know it or not, whether I consider it or not, I am deciding the justice that those around me deserve. This reality is prompting me to evaluate how I define justice in my life, and more importantly, how does that look in my relationships.
Tm Keller, speaking recently on the topic of justice said, “If you love God, love what he loves.” He didn’t say love what God loves when his people are lovable, when they are gracious, when they are kind and deserving. He simply claimed scripture’s second command, to love others as ourselves. All others. Not just my family, my friends, people I like and identify with. Everyone.
I want this truth to be evident in my life. I want to be known for how I love people and I would guess it’s what many of us want as well. So, it leaves us asking what can help us in our desire to love people with a love that resembles how God loves us.
And in that statement, we likely have our answer. God didn’t show us justice. Justice for us would mean that we are somehow, someway left to either pay for our sin or to be good enough not to sin. Both are impossible. God, knowing this, allowed his son in the man of Jesus to pay that debt so that we can live free. Now that is radical, undeserved love that moves way beyond justice.
Remembering the injustice that was inflicted for me to be justified motivates me to move beyond giving justice. There I find motivation to love what God loves.