I doubt there’s a person who hasn’t heard of the Boston Mara-thon bombing, which took the lives of three people. As runners entered the home straight, with the finish line in sight, first one then another explosion ripped through the happy, watching throng.
One of the bombs killed eight-year-old Martin Richards, who a year earlier, had made a bright blue placard proclaiming: “No more hurting people,” with hearts framing the word Peace.
But there was no peace that day: in addition to the dead, some 200 people were injured by the two pressure cooker bombs, including Richards’ sister, who lost part of her leg, and his mother. For the dead, it was the end of all things temporal, human. They had no warning of their imminent demise.
It reminds me of a statement made by the apostle Paul, speaking to us all, of the return of Christ to earth: “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3).
And no escape.
Of course the race at Boston that day was abandoned. For those who hadn’t made it across the line, their race was run. A defiant re-run a few weeks later was an anti-climax.
But you know the story and how it also ended so tragically for the alleged bombers, the Tsarnaev brothers, one of whom was killed in a gunfight with police and the other taken into custody facing capital charges. But for the Tsarnaevs, both the dead and the living, April 15, 2013 could only be hailed a success. They accomplished the work of the devil, wreaking destruction and death on the innocent, even infants, with no comprehension of a distant, dusty, interminable war.
That war is a mere battle in a much greater world conflict, which, according to the Bible, ends only with the second coming of Christ. One in which, as the Tsarnaevs described the Boston casualties, we are “collateral damage.”
For in this war, the Bible says, the perpetrator is the devil, who goes around seeking to devour whomever he can. It isn’t an “adults-only” war; it involves kids too. As for the terrorist, so for the devil: the more innocent the victim, the better the deed.
For the devil, such an act is a win-win. For in addition to taking one more captive to their grave, such an action begs the question, “How could a loving God allow that to happen?” The answer is either “God is not loving; He’s a tyrant” or “There is no God.”
The Bible also prophesies that in the days just before Christ returns, that the love of people for humankind would “grow cold,” indifferent to its suffering. God could predict this because He saw the ultimate outworking of sin as total destruction. We’ve seen examples: Nazi atrocities of World War II, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and the Rwandan genocide.
Seeking the Tsarnaevs’ inspiration, Time magazine sent reporter Simon Shuster to Chechnya, where the brothers were born. “I could not fathom how this [place] . . . could have inspired [the Tsarnaevs] to murder innocents on the other side of the world,” he concluded.
The clue was in their heart, not their homeland. The cause, even the presence, of human inclinations toward evil often evades the secular mind, which cannot concede the presence of its originator, the devil.
In such wanton acts as the Tsarnaevs’, we observe the millennia-long conflict between the good and the evil—the God and the devil—in our world. But on the clock of earth’s history, we are within sight of the finish line. And what a mistake it would be, with relief and rest so close, to be distracted by the things of this world, be it its woes or its wealth, and fail to finish. This is one race where there is no re-run.
The apostle Paul talks about the marathon we call life: “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). This same metaphor he employs in a letter to the first Christians, in which he counselled to “throw off . . . the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Although street bombings have been around for a century, an event such as Boston cautions against complacency, living in “enemy-occupied” territory as we do. Our enemy, Satan, is determined to make life as short as he can, and to take us when we’re least prepared.
Fortunately, our dangerous and lawless world is to be replaced by a “new heaven” and a “new earth” in which God promises to wipe away the tears of Martin Richards’ family, for there, there is “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).