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Be Strong

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. 

Reader Comments (3)

Just wrote an article for our local paper today for a monthly column titled, "Thoughts and Prayers." I use a reading from the daily lectionary readings as the basis for the column. Here is this Friday's column...

“Marathon Moments, Marathon Monuments” Friday, May 3, 2013
By Rev. David L. Troxler, Co-pastor, St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene, Duxbury

My wife and I bought our “617-Boston Strong” t-shirts last week. It seems like the least we could do to lend support to overcome all the craziness we saw unfold just a few miles from us on Marathon Monday. There was an inner need to do something tangible to offer whatever I could to make a difference, no matter how small. After the initial bombing, I signed up to give blood at Children’s Hospital but that was cancelled for the day of my appointment was when all Boston went into lockdown.

The events we witnessed have changed us. It is well that they should as long as the change is to make us better persons.

One of the things people have done, perhaps even some of you reading this, has been to set up a memorial. Moved from its initial location, it is now in Copley Square. Festooned is not the proper word for this, but the cards, the running shoes, the flowers, the crosses and especially the onlookers who just come to be still for a moment all speak to the change that has occurred.

On 9-11, our family was living just outside Pittsburgh. We traveled to the Flight 93 crash site. I felt compelled to leave something there at that impromptu memorial. I was driven to do so. I’m sure this is how many have felt these past two weeks when going to Copley to see the finish line and make a personal pledge to not be defeated by tyranny.

It is not unlike a story we find in the Bible. From the last half of Joshua 22, we read about three of the tribes of Israel. They have set up a monument as a marker to remind all of them about God’s provision through the difficulty of entering the Promised Land. We read that their marker was to be a witness for that generation and the ones to come that they served the Lord. When push came to shove in the most trying of times, their marker was about how they remained strong for the task before them, how they had kept their faith despite blows against it.

Being “Boston Strong” is more than just a slogan, it has to do with faithfulness to keep going. Keep going to where? That is the question—the unknown future. That is why we set up monuments and markers. They remind us of moments like 2:50pm on 4-15-2013 and tell us, we came through that, so we will make it. We are stronger than that.

The best part however is this, even when we don’t feel strong, the Bible promises us that God will make his strength perfect in our weakness. I rely on that promise. I hope you do too.

04.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave Troxler

Nice post, Doug.

As you know, our families attended Bethel Church of the Nazarene when we lived outside Boston. One summer, the VBS program had a song that has stuck with the Oord family since those days. It takes this passage of Scripture as it's lyrics: "Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord God is with you wherever you go."

With the recent Be Strong slogan after the bombing, we now have another reason to remember the strength of the Lord when we think about Boston!

04.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Jay Oord

Thanks Doug for sharing your heart regarding this event that did literally strike you close to "home". Your comments ring true.

As a hospice chaplain, trauma chaplain and a pastor I am slowly learning it is not the doing or saying that has power, but the "being" and being present in moment with Godly calmness among those hurting. This has supplied the greatest support to those that are in crises. And only when I am fully in the moment that then am I able to "act" when needed in a way that is truly helpful. (Helping them through the medical maze as example.) Just as living in His strength helps in mass terror, it also holds true in the micro terrors of life.

05.8.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGary L. Snook

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