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“Monster”                                    “enemy”                     “deranged”

“The face of evil”                                          “demon”


These words and more describe people like Tsarnaev, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing. Rolling Stone Magazine has put Tsarnaev on their cover. There are many who are upset and even outraged over the Magazine’s choice.

But  I am thankful. Because Tsarnaev doesn’t look like a monster or the face of evil. He looks like you and me–normal. We expect criminals to look disheveled, greasy, unkept, ugly, or “demented.” But Tsarnaev looks normal.

This challenges me.

1. If he looks normal–like a friend, like me–its a little harder to keep throwing those labels of “monster” on him. He looks too normal. When I am able to label someone as “evil” or a “monster” I can easily dismiss Jesus’ words of loving my enemy. I can easily justify giving into the anger, bitterness, hatred, fear, and violence in response to Tsarnaev’s actions. And suddenly, the cycle of violence takes another turn, for I keep the violence in me. But this photo that Rolling Stones has placed on their cover challenges me to stop justifying my hatred, unforgiveness, and violence–even if the violences is only name calling and emotions within me. If I cannot demonize my enemy, I might be able to actually obey Christ’s words.

2. Rolling Stone’s picture of Tsarnaev reminds me that I am always a choice away from evil. People who share similar stories can respond differently. One will overcome evil with good. The other may succumb to the evil and participate in it. What in Tsarnaev’s story gave him the choice of evil? Why did he see participation in evil and violence as the only option? The picture on Rolling Stone’s cover presents someone with a story–a story which has gone horrendously wrong for him and for so many others. And I humbly must admit, that my story is always simply a choice away from going horrendously wrong.

And so Rolling Stone’s cover has challenged me to choose not to give hatred, anger, violence a foothold in me. I will not repeat Tsarnaev’s choice–even in my thoughts. I will not let the violence in my mind and heart remain. The anger, the hatred, the bitterness, the violence has to stop somewhere. Let it stop in me. I will not demonize those who do violence. I will view them as human beings. I will not allow others to dehumanize another person in my presence. Like the cover of Rolling Stones has challenged me, I will present the picture of the Gospel–in all of its offense and pain and glory to the world around me.