I doubt that I need to explain to anyone who contributes to this blog why we should pray for Jahar, but for the sake of those people who randomly stumble across this blog and want to understand why we’re so passionate about praying for someone who committed a disgusting act of terrorism, I feel the need to write this.
I don’t expect people to understand our feelings for Jahar, but hear me out, especially if you’re a Christian, because this mission goes to the heart of the Gospel. Despite the enormity of Jahar’s sins, we completely forgive him, we love him and care for him, we want him to be completely healed, and we want him to be in heaven one day.
But why? How can we feel this way and how can we wish so much good upon someone who has caused such pain and who has committed such evil? We feel this way for one because God has put His heart for Jahar within us, and two, because of the example and commands of Jesus.
Jesus spent a large portion of His time on earth amongst the outcasts of society, those who were considered great sinners—for example, tax collectors (who after collecting money for taxes, collected extra from people for their own use) and prostitutes. Despite knowing all of their sins, He didn’t see those people as unlovable or unredeemable; rather, He said He came to “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
His unconditional love for sinners and His great forgiveness and amazing grace are displayed even more clearly on the cross. As He was being crucified, He forgave the very people who pounded the nails in and who had caused Him to be put to death, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Those were the people that the sinless, spotless, perfect Son of God could most have chosen not to forgive; if anyone deserved God’s wrath, then surely they did. But no, Jesus forgave them.
Also at the crucifixion, we see Jesus’s forgiveness of the criminal that was hanging on a cross next to him. I’ve heard him called a thief or a murderer, but whatever his exact crime was, here was a man who had done something horrible that made him worthy of execution. Jesus had every right to condemn this man, but when the man says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42), what does Jesus say? Does He say, “Sorry dude, but you’ve hurt a lot of people and you’ve sinned against Me, so I’m not going to forgive you, and I’m certainly not going to save you. Go to hell where you belong.” No, rather He says the direct opposite: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
We see in Jesus a love that is so purely unconditional. In Romans 5:8, it says, “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. And the amazing thing about God’s love is that He loved us even when we were sinners. At the time when He most should have hated us, He loved us enough to die an excruciating death on the cross.
The point here is that God loves even people who would set off bombs at a marathon. He hates sin and its consequences, but He extends His full forgiveness to everyone, regardless of what they’ve done. In fact, in 2 Peter 3:9, it says that God is “not wishing that any should perish.” That includes Jahar.
Maybe you’re thinking, okay, that’s God’s love for Jahar, but I don’t have to forgive him, and I sure don’t have to love him or pray for him. The problem with that is we see in the Bible that Jesus wants us to do the direct opposite. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45)
In Luke, Jesus says something very similar: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). We also see a similar command in Romans:
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
Our natural inclination is to hate people who do evil things, harbor bitterness in our hearts toward them, and wish all sorts of evil upon them. That’s why we see so many people who would like to personally torture Jahar, execute him publicly in the most painful fashion, and then personally escort him to hell. But as followers of Jesus, we love, we forgive, and we pray all sorts of blessings over Jahar, especially his salvation.
We have been loved and forgiven when we didn’t deserve it, so we can love and forgive those who don’t deserve it. You can forgive much if you understand you’re forgiven.