Dr. Doug Hardy
Professor of Spiritual Formation
Director, Doctor of Ministry Degree Program
Boston is a special place for me. I was born and attended college just outside the city. I took my first teaching job at that same college—Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, MA—and earned my Ph.D. degree at Boston University. My son lives in the city. My two sisters live in the Boston area and many dear friends and colleagues call the Boston area home. So when bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Patriot’s Day, it hit close to home.
As a follower of the Boston sports scene, I’ve been touched by and impressed with the displays of compassion, solidarity, and resolve highlighted at recent Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics games, captured most potently by the symbol and slogan “B STRONG” (or “BOSTON STRONG”). Although I’m sure it means different things to different people, I hear in it a desire and determination to not let the infliction of terror or its consequences cause us to betray values of freedom, love, and justice. In other words, we do not need to become like those who would do us harm. Does God have anything to say to us in situations like this?
The phrase, “Be strong!” is biblical. Peppered throughout the Old Testament historical books (Deut 31:7; Josh 1:6; 1 Kgs 2:2; 1 Chron 22:13; Ezr 9:12), the Psalms (27:14; 31:24) and the Prophets (Isa 35:4; Dan 10:19; Hagg 2:4; Zech 8:9), it is used to encourage God’s people to not be afraid or act out of fear, because God is with them and God’s ways (laws, commands) are sufficient for living well. The surest sign of strength, according to these biblical authors, is waiting on and trusting in God. Easier said than done.
Jesus goes a step further. In the context of the Jewish admonition to “love the Lord your God with all your … strength” (Mk 12:30), he asks us not only to not become like those who do us harm (our enemies), but to actually love them (Mt 5:43-44). Perhaps nothing in this life requires more strength.
I, for one, do not have easy answers for the challenging questions facing individuals, communities, and nations under threat. It seems to me, however, that those of us who claim our identity in Jesus Christ need to stay close to the sources of strength marked out by our Christ-following ancestors in the first century. Selections from two New Testament books in particular occupy my thinking and praying these days:
- 1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
- 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
- Ephesians 3:16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
- Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (NRSV)
Note: NTS now has a formal presence in the Boston area with its multi-campus site at ENC. Click here for a list of current course offerings.