Grace and Mercy, even in Manchester

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I spent the first five years of my life in a commuter village outside Manchester. It’s horrible to see today’s news of an outrageous terrorist attack in that great city.

And it is outrageous. As with other nations, the U.K. has seen terrorist attacks before but there is something particularly evil about a suicide bomber who will target young women in this way. Not commuters on the way to work, not citizens at the site of our parliament (not that this in some way justifies their murder) but today young women; girls and teenagers. Those we should be honouring and protecting. Deliberately targeted. Just when you think it could not be more despicable.

How do we respond as Christians? While there is a place for the government to act with justice, “bearing the sword” (Rom. 13:4), the Christian responds differently. Our own response flows from the great news of the Gospel. Here’s how one wicked terrorist put it:

1Tim. 1:12-16    I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15    Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

Paul’s logic is fascinating. Because his blasphemous persecution and violence flowed from ignorance and unbelief the only cure for it was the mercy of God; grace poured out on him abundantly.

It’s right to want justice. It’s right to be outraged about what has happened. It will be right in the days and weeks to come to ask important questions about what sort of political and religious ideologies underpinned this action.

But let’s not lose sight of the grace that this bomber, those who supported him and each and every one of us need.

Ultimately it’s that grace that causes Paul to sing out in praise to God so it’s that grace that we need to make sure doesn’t get lost in our response.

17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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