Today I’m featuring a guest post from my friend and fellow seminarian Joshua Raley (B.A. SEBC). He loves his wife, the Church, and the Gospel with Christ-exalting joy. I believe his remarks concerning 9/11 are right on the money and exactly the type of godly response and dialogue we are called to as thoughtful believers. We both appreciate any comments or questions from this post.
Should Christians ‘Never Forget’ 9/11?
It only takes a cursory glance at Facebook, Twitter feeds, and email inboxes to know it is that time of year again: September 11th. No doubt, on this day 11 years ago, one of the greatest tragedies our country has ever seen rocked the nation. Nearly 3,000 Americans died that day, each with family and friends that felt the sting of their loved one ripped away too soon, leaving only ‘what ifs’ and ‘could have beens’. Some survivors plunged into a cultish sense of patriotism. Some plunged into a jaded sort of cynicism. No one remained unaffected. I know this first hand. I’ll never forget as I arrived at my locker for P.E., enjoying my fifteenth birthday, waiting in eager anticipation to leave school and test for my driver’s permit, I got the news. I thought it was a hoax. We spent the rest of the day going through the normal class schedule, but watching the news in every period. We were afraid, and rightly so. As we watched the video reels replay over and over the chilling scene of the planes crashing into the towers, there was a sense of unity that rose up in all of us. After all, we were all Americans that day. This sense of unity resonated through our nation for months to come as American flag sales reach historic proportions.
Now much time has passed, and with every birthday (which is today) I’m reminded of that day in 2001. Every year, I think back to the greatest show of patriotism I have ever witnessed. With each passing year, this surge of patriotism is noticed again in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of the tragedy with increased American flag sales, annoying chain emails containing pictures of eagles and the slight shadow of the twin towers where they once stood transposed on the now lacking New York sky line, and social media posts reminding me to ‘Never Forget’!
This is not the first year that I have stopped and wondered about the wisdom of such statements. Before I’m pegged as a traitor, let me say, I love my country and to not remember this event would be foolish. Recalling to memory the event, however, is seldom what I feel is expressed by the slogan. There seems, at least in some instances, an underlying message. One that suggests our ultimate allegiance is to our country, that we should dwell on our injuries, and above all else we are to never forgive. After all, religious extremists did this to us. We need to get ‘em back. As the great Toby Keith once said, “We’ll put a boot in your a$$, it’s the American way!” The most troubling part for me is that many fellow believers fall into that line of thinking.
I must admit, at first glance this view does seem to be somewhat attractive. We have been hurt, we have been scared, and we certainly don’t want to be taken advantage of again. With that said, there is another voice, a voice of reason and truth, that beckons me when I react based on my fears and fragile emotions. The voice says “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…”
What is the proper reaction from the Christian to such an event, especially to the subsequent anniversaries to the event? What should we do when we get that email from a friend with a majestic eagle’s face with the shadow of the towers reflecting in his eyes? What should we do when we are told to ‘Never Forget’? I’ve given this question some thought and what follows, I think, is a solid course of action.
First, we should certainly never forget in the information recollection sense of the word. We should keep in mind that life is fragile and can be taken from us at every moment. In no place does Scripture suggest that we are to be foolish in the way we live our lives. Is beefed up security a good thing? Probably so. Isn’t that just not trusting God to take care of us? Not at all, that’s trusting the means God has given us to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Second, we must forgive those who have harmed us. Matthew 6 tells us, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Forgiveness of others is and will be the mark of a true Christian. If you have been forgiven, you have all the reason you could ever need to forgive.
Third, we are to be obedient to the words of our Lord when he tells us, “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…” There are many in this world who still consider America a pest that must be eradicated if there is to be peace and civility in this world. They also live in contexts with very little access to the gospel. Pray for their hearts to be opened. Pray that the Lord would grant them repentance. Pray for a great harvest among these people groups. Most of all, pray that the name of Jesus Christ would be made great in their nations as well as ours.
Finally we must remember God’s purposes in all that happens. Could God have stopped 9/11 and foiled the whole plan? Sure. Did he? No. This seemingly gratuitous evil has been, is being, and will be used and was intended to be used by the Lord for the sake of his great name among the nations. He is not a weak God lacking control over his Creation nor is he a God who passively sits by and allows arbitrary evils to occur. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (Ps. 135:6) The Lord’s purpose will stand, and his ultimate purpose is to bring glory to himself. Not only did this event lead to God being glorified, it was necessary in the course of history for the scene that we all long for in Revelation 21 to take place when the Lord will dwell with us and be our God and we will be his people. He will wipe every tear from our eye, there will be no more mourning, no more weeping, no more pain, and death will be no more. Amen, Come Lord Jesus.