Grace Forfeited

Adam, Tamerlan, and the Lady

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Was Adam Lanza's bullet to the head,
With all its millisecond length of dread
And suffering, a fitting recompense
For twenty children dead? 

                                        And the events
Of Boston’s bloody marathon—is one 
Hour’s bullet-riddled dying how it's done?
Is that the penalty for killing three,
And ripping off our legs, as if a knee
Could run? 

                  Can Tamerlan and Adam rob 
So easily the State of its last job
Of punishing these crimes?

                                        Perhaps. But not
The Lady Justice. No. In truth she got
Her verdict. Firm. And she is not so blind
That any criminal, by her consigned
To suffer suitably, could ever slip
Away through merest mortal stings, or skip
Her perfect rectitude through suicide.

Nor is her Ladyship so dignified 
Among the cynical elite that she
Would bow to their philosophy,
And lose her right to judge—her sacred breath—
By not, at last, existing after death.

As if this bloody universe were one 
Long empty triumph of injustice, done
By no one, leaping into nothingness 
From dreams, where there is nothing to transgress.

No. Those last pistol pops in Sandy Hook 
And Watertown pursued and overtook
Their prey, and echoed like a slamming door,
Heard on the other side of time, and tore
Away the fatal hope that they were dead.
They were not dead. Nor she, enflaming dread.
In her right hand the Lady held the chains,
And in her left the everlasting pains.

                                        John Piper
                                        May 8, 2013

Listen to a special 5-minute episode of Ask Pastor John explaining the background of this poem and the biblical categories explored.