Hope for sinners, even terrorists

Boston Bombings
by La Shawn Barber
Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, at 11:48 am

“For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34)

Back in my younger and unsaved years, I had little patience for the gospel or those sharing it. I wondered why there was no reference to degrees of sin. I’d either think or say something similar to the following:

“You mean to tell me if I don’t accept Jesus as my personal Savior, I might end up standing next to somebody like Hitler in hell? How can that be? I didn’t direct the murders of millions. I tell a lie every now and then, OK, but people like Hitler have done much, much worse! How is it fair that my ‘minor’ sins will send me to hell alongside people who’ve committed ‘major’ sins?”

Although I grew up attending a Protestant church, I thought I could get to heaven if the “good” I’d done outweighed the “bad.” When I became saved, I acquired an intimate understanding of the gospel, marveled at the Bible’s overarching theme of redemption, and cultivated a deep gratitude for Christ’s sacrificial love for me, but I still think about those questions. It can be difficult to wrap a corrupted and finite mind around the idea that sin is sin, and one sin is sufficient to incur God’s just wrath.

After I heard about the Boston Marathon terrorist attack, it took some effort for me to avoid wishing terrible things on the perpetrators. I couldn’t even look at images of them on my TV and computer screen. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. But ultimately, no matter how angry we might be, we have a higher calling to pray for the salvation of murderers. Such heart-for-the-lost motivations are godly and very different from secular compassion or sympathy.

For example, Amanda Palmer, a musician, wrote what she called a poem to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger half of the Muslim duo charged with the Boston bombings. After I read it and the negative reactions on Twitter, questions emerged. What impulse led Palmer to write an ode to an accused murderer rather than to the victims of the murderer, or to the fertilizer plant explosion victims in Texas?

Suppose the Boston Marathon terrorists had been exactly what the liberal media hoped they’d be: Tea Party types or “Christian extremists.” Do you think Palmer would have written an ode to them? Not in a million years. I’ll give her points for inserting herself into the news cycle and generating publicity for her band, though.

I have little patience for people who urge empty “understanding.” What I do have patience for is Christians reminding fellow believers that God can save Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. God demonstrated His love for us by sacrificing His Son when we were still sinners. For me, this fact helps calm the mind and quell the anger.

There is hope for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and other murderers if they repent of their sins and accept Christ as their Savior. As long as there is hope for any sinner, we can rejoice.

La Shawn Barber

La Shawn is a former WORLD columnist.

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