I wanted to share this editorial I wrote for a journalism class on April 26, 2013 — 11 days after the Boston Marathon Bombings, 7 days after Jahar was captured, and 5 days after I made a daily commitment for pray for his salvation. I find it’s just as powerful and important of a message now as it was almost two years ago.
I want you to pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings as you read the following two words: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
What did you think? What did you feel? A sense of hatred rising up within you as you think about what a vile monster he is? An overwhelming desire to see him tortured and put to death? A wish that you could personally escort him to hell?
As for me, I don’t feel any of those things; instead, I feel love.
I know what you’re probably thinking. What kind of person could possibly feel love toward someone accused of setting off bombs that killed three people and injured over 280 people, fatally shooting a police officer, and planning to detonate more bombs in Times Square?
A Christian, that’s who.
It’s good to want justice served. It’s good to be disgusted by the crimes Dzhokhar allegedly committed. It’s good to mourn for the victims of this awful tragedy and to support the survivors.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t love, that we don’t love in a radical way that many people cannot understand. The word “radical” when tied to religion has gotten a bad rap, as it typically conjures up images of airplanes being flown into buildings and of bombs being detonated in public places with mass casualties and destruction. Radical Christianity, however, is something completely different; radical Christianity involves following in Jesus’ footsteps, bringing forth light and love to the world.
So what does that look like in response to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-45, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Love your enemies. Pray for them. Yes, even Dzhokhar.
If you have a problem praying for Dzhokhar because he’s “too evil” to be changed, need I remind you what is at the core of what Christians believe.
If you’ve grown up around the church, you’re bound to know this verse. Romans 5:8. Ring a bell? If not, it reads, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
I think we read that verse, see the word “sinners” and think, okay, Christ died for those who sinned but not too badly. But no, the verse simply says “sinners.” It doesn’t qualify the word.
In our churches, we sing “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,” but we don’t realize the implications of what we’re singing—that the blood of Jesus can wash even the dirtiest of sinners white as snow. Yes, even Dzhokhar.
So pray, pray that God would make Dzhokhar acutely aware of his sins and fill him with shame and guilt that he would become desperate for righteousness. Pray that God would open Dzhokhar’s ears and heart to hear and believe the gospel message of the forgiveness offered to all through Christ.
In doing so, we refuse to return hatred for hatred. That only leads to more hatred in a world that experiences enough hatred already. Instead, we must fight evil with love―with the radical love of Christ.