A Reflection on 9/11
It’s been eleven years, but it may as well have been yesterday.
I was sitting in a meeting room at our church body’s headquarters building in Kirkwood, Missouri (Saint Louis) with all senior leaders of the various Synodical agencies, entities, boards, commissions, etc. We were there for a routine monthly meeting, but there was nothing routine about this meeting. We sat in stunned silence watching everything unfold on a huge screen, live. We could not believe our eyes. At first we thought it was a horrible accident, but then we saw the second airliner deliberately crash into the second tower and we realized our nation had just been attacked, and then at the Pentagon, then in Pennsylvania.
The sick feeling in my stomach comes back powerfully as I reflect on this. This event cast our nation into open warfare against shadowy terrorist organizations, driven by a militant form of Islam that is committed to world domination and imposition of Islamic fundamentalism. The only thing this movement understands is brute force and power. Indeed, we are reminded once again of how God works in this world through two kingdoms and why he has given the state the power to wield the sword to punish and protect (Romans 13:4).
And at the same time, this sickening display was a dramatic look into the heart of darkness and evil that is lurking within every human being’s deepest most inner recesses: the darkness of sin, death and the devil. We have a need always to demonize those who committ such public atrocities. Gross outbursts of sin are often dealt with by trying to make “those people” something other than what they are: fallen and sinful human beings, driven to horrific actions by a sin-filled and sin-sick soul. We want to believe they are not humans, like us, that they are not “normal” that there is “something wrong with those people.” But then we need only look into our own lives and see our failings, we where we have permitted sin to have its way in our lives, in our words, in our actions. Yes, there is indeed something “wrong with those people” but “those people” are just like us.
I can’t help but hear the words of St. Paul loudly declaring: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Indeed, how wretched we are! This kind of brutal honesty is so important for us to truly know ourselves and then to come to know the enormity of the grace poured out into our lives by a God whose chief attribute is: LOVE. “God is love,” declares the inspired Apostle (1 John 4:8). And as a result, “We love God because He first loved us,” says, John (1 John 4:19). As our Lord promises us, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). This Lord was forsaken by His Father, in our place, on the cross, where His blood was shed for the forgiveness of all sin, and by His victory over sin and death, He defeated our old enemies: sin, death and the devil. It is into this freedom to which we are called, but it is also a struggle, daily, against temptation. Indeed, who shall deliver us? Jesus Christ! “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
And so, on this day of remembering and reflecting on the horrible events of 9/11, let us use the opportunity to reflect on the horrors of sin and death and the gracious, powerful, comforting promises of the good news of Jesus Christ, whose witnesses are are called to be and whose love is ours to share, even to the extent of loving those who hate us. Ponder then the words of our Lord:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:43-44. This is the Church’s calling. This is our calling. And at the same time, we reflect and thank God for the gift of good government and pray for His blessings on those who protect us and wield the sword for the sake of peace and security. “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4).
So, then, let us rejoice that there is victory, in Christ.
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:56-57).