Soul Force in the Wake of Boston's Tragedy

04/23/2013 04:57 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2013

If you weren't one of the thousands of spectators and runners at the Boston Marathon last week, you saw the videos. You saw the photos and heard the eye-witness accounts: there was a loud noise, the ground shook, we didn't know what was going on, there was screaming; legs and flesh and blood spattered in all directions; smoke billowed from the concrete.

In the days following the bombing, I walked around with the rest of America in a haze of questions. Why? Who? Will it happen again? If so, when? Where? Who? Why?

In the midst of chaos we Christians are supposed to turn to Jesus for answers, but even Jesus didn't always speak the answers to his questions. When Jesus appears to Saul, then a violent persecutor of Christ-followers, on the road to Damascus, he asks: Why do you persecute me? When Jesus himself is hanging from the cross, moments before his own violent death, he calls out: God, why have you forsaken me? Amid the chaos of violence, we ask why with Christ. And when we are too tired to ask why, we mourn.

On Wednesday evening following the attacks I attended a worship service at a nearby historic church and the eloquent Rev. Julie Johnson Staples offered a glimpse of clarity to those of us still caught in the smoky chaos. She quoted Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s use of the term "soul force" as a response to the bloody persecution of African Americans during the Civil Rights movement:

"Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force," Dr. King proclaimed.

Even Saul, a zealous persecutor of Christ-believers, could be called to new life -- not by physical force or divine might, but through the present, loving soul force of Jesus: Why do you persecute me? Come, follow me, instead. When Jesus was on the cross, spectators taunted him: If you are who you say you are, why don't you save yourself? But Jesus resisted the temptation to respond to the persecution against him with physical might; instead, he transcended that persecution with the soul force of resurrection, so that all might be invited to new life.

Late last week and over the weekend, the United States, with spectators around the world, witnessed a bloody manhunt in which two lives were lost, including one of the bombing suspects; and another suspect was critically injured. At first, I slid right back into the questions: Why? How? Why? And then I felt a morbid kind of relief: it is finished.

But in spite of recent developments and whatever new developments may come to light, the purpose for Christians remains. We must resist the desire for quick answers; Jesus shows us how to ask questions. We must resist the urge to lay blame on religious groups or foreign nationals; Jesus allows us to mourn our losses. We must not grow fearful or suspicious of our neighbors; Jesus gives us the soul force to love our neighbors. We are people of the resurrection.

Anne Marie Roderick is an alumna of Interfaith Youth Core programs. For more from interfaith student leaders, check out the IFYC Blog.