Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
Be pleased to save me, Lord;
come quickly, Lord, to help me. Psalm 40:11-13
It was one year ago today that the Boston Marathon reached a horrifying and premature conclusion. When the bombs went off, I was right there with you in my response: “Who would do such a thing?” “How could anyone just kill and maim innocent people like that?” With those questions and so many others like them, we begin trying to re-order our world by categorizing the good people and the bad people. It brings us some comfort. It is how we deal with otherwise “inexplicable evil”. We find some solace in drawing those distinctions and in placing ourselves on one side and “those kinds of people” on the other side. Honestly, it helps us sleep at night, doesn’t it? We feel better about ourselves and about our world when we can identify evil, point it out as clearly “other” than us, and come to terms with the comforting reality that we are, in fact, better than those kinds of people.
Scripture does not paint a picture of a world divided. If we go to our Bibles and read the stories of our heroes and heroines and hope to be able to place David and Joseph and Moses and Peter and Paul and you and me all on the side of “good”, and then place the murderers and adulterers and rapists and terrorists all on the side of “evil”, we are hugely and humbly disappointed. Scripture does not divide the world between the good people and the bad people. It divides the universe between the holy and everything else…and this world ALL falls into the “everything else” category. You and I are part of that.
I heard an interview with Rudy Giuliani just after the bombing. The interviewer asked him, “Is this just the world we live in now?” His response was that this is the world we live in ever since September 11. But that’s not really accurate, is it? Scripture says otherwise. It says this is the world we live in ever since the fall of man. And, by the way, you and I don’t just live in this world, as if we are innocent bystanders…we are participants in it. We have contributed to the brokenness.
This is why one of our heroes of God’s story, David (the “man after God’s own heart”) could say, “May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion” and also, in the very same psalm, “my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see..They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” Scripture does not teach us this tendency to “otherize” people, even bombers and terrorists. Scripture does not comfort us with categories and levels of unholiness, so that we can distance ourselves from those who seem “more evil” than us and thereby find rest. Rather, God’s Word throws us all into the same unholy, murky mire together, and then says to us all, “you need a savior”.
That is the truth, is it not? We may engage in the hair-splitting of comparing our own sins with the sins of “those evil people” and tell ourselves that we come out on top. But do we? When we are compared to the holiness to which we are called, do we come out anywhere near the top?
As I reflected on the horror of last year’s bombing in Boston and its devastation in the hearts and minds of so many fellow humans, and as I then looked to scripture for some perspective on it all, I was left with two realities: (1) this world is horribly broken and in need of a savior, and (2) so am I.
Come quickly, Lord.