Words are difficult to form when seeking to respond to the tragic events of September 11, 2001 in New York City and Washington D.C. Evil of the most despicable sort has truly visited our shores. But amidst the numbing horror of watching the unbelievable scenes on television and the disgusting displays of celebration from some in Palestine, an emotion lacking in my heart was anger.
I am confident that every attempt at finding those who helped mastermind this complex act of terrorism will be made. They must be brought to justice and I support every legal effort to do so. However, I understand that those who brought these tragic events about justify it on the basis of faulty assumptions, a different worldview. This scheme was brought about by not necessarily a sick mind but a deceived and confused mind. They may even believe, if they turn out to be Islamic fundamentalists, that they will have gained a greater reward in the next life for killing huge numbers of "infidels" (unbelievers). This points out all too powerfully that in order to engage our increasingly global culture for Christ, we need to understand not only what we believe and why, but also the worldview of those around us. Not only are our evangelistic efforts imperiled, but our very lives are threatened if we fail to do so.
Unbridled anger is also unproductive. It can lead to making mistakes in a rush to find someone to blame. To seek vengeance as opposed to justice is to abandon a Christian worldview. Paul admonishes us to never pay back evil for evil to anyone. He further reminds us that vengeance belongs to God and to feed our enemy, therefore overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:17-21). Paul further reminds us in the next chapter that the government carries the God-given responsibility for justice, "for it does not bear the sword for nothing, for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil" (Rom. 13:4b).
Let us pray, and donate our blood and money for the families of those who have been murdered, the injured, those still missing but alive, the rescue workers and medical personnel, and especially pray for those in our government responsible for investigating and ultimately apprehending those who planned these acts of terrorism that adjectives simply can't adequately embrace.
Several observations have struck me and stuck with me as I've watched, listened, assimilated and prayed over the disaster.
1. Many people are experiencing fear that they find difficult to shake. The antidote to fear is to know the presence of the Lord, and I think we need to continually invite Him and the sense of His presence into our hearts, our minds, and our feelings. I think it's essential to remind ourselves that a loving God is in control, and to communicate this to our children.
2. As I was meditating on the inevitable question that so many people would ask: "Where was God in the midst of this disaster?" I realized that Jesus was on the hijacked planes, He was in the World Trade Center offices, and He was at the Pentagon. I remembered the painting of the Lord Jesus knocking at the door of the U.N. building. In my mind's eye, I could easily see Him standing before the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and then I "saw" Him turned around, facing the planes on their deadly missions, and realized they had to fly through Jesus, and through His heart, to get to the buildings. The terrorists inflicted fresh pain on the Lord just as they devastated the American people.
3. In hearing people's anguished voices on talk radio, and reading their impassioned posts on the internet, and seeing their pained faces in real life, I sensed a strong desire for justice. Many expressed outrage at the unfairness and the evil of this despicable act. And I thought, as a culture we can talk about everybody having the right to their own truth and the universal validity of everyone's experience, but a tragedy like this shows what a hollow and deceptive philosophy that is. Where did the strong sense of right and wrong, of good and evil, come from if not from the fact that "God has planted eternity in the hearts of man" (Eccl. 3:11)? Within moments of hearing about the terrorist attacks, I started praying that people (including the media) would talk about this as an act of evil, making the moral judgment that calling something evil is. . . and was so glad to hear Peter Jennings use that word moments later. President Bush wisely and I am sure deliberately used the word "evil" several times in his message the night of the attacks.
4. Several friends have remarked that they don't feel safe anymore; they feel like they're in a war zone and their world could blow up at any time. What a poignant reminder that in actuality, we live in a spiritual war zone. We are in more danger of the enemy's flaming darts and philosophical scud missiles, every single day of our lives, than we are of hijacked planes slamming into buildings. We need to stay vigilant and trust in God all the time. Which reminds me. . . God is good. All the time. All the time, God is good.
As the prophet Jeremiah surveyed the destruction of Jerusalem he wept, pouring out his grief in the poignant poetry of the Old Testament book of Lamentations. The ruthless honesty with which he attempts to reconcile his profound sense of loss with the sovereign will of a holy God is, ironically, both heartbreaking and refreshing. He offers no trite phrases, no easy answers. Indeed, he freely confesses, "My strength has perished, and so has my hope from the Lord" (3:18).
Yet in the midst of his despair and the desolation of his city a light begins to dawn, a ray of hope breaks through the darkness and gloom and he writes his now famous words:
"This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I have hope in Him'" (3:21-24).
Though we may not fully understand why God would allow Tuesday's tragic events we can, like Jeremiah, still look to Him in hope. Even in the midst of our pain and confusion, we can humbly remember His faithfulness, compassion and loyal love.
Yesterday's attack challenges each person's beliefs and convictions. It brought the reality home to all of us, that life is fragile and eternity is only one step away. At times like these we really begin to search and question our beliefs. It is at these times we see if our belief system really addresses life's greatest questions and if it provide the answers.
Yesterday we saw that only the Christian worldview stood the test. Never have we heard so many people turning to God for strength, for answers and for healing. This shows the natural reaction of man to turn to God in times like these. Each man and woman has the knowledge of God imbedded in his or her heart. As Romans 1:18 states, all men and women have knowledge of God but suppress this truth to justify living independently of Him. However, in times like this, we see this knowledge that man suppresses, rise up and come to the forefront of his thoughts. We can only question this act of terror, seek comfort, and hope only in relation to God Whose nature is revealed in the Bible. No other worldview can address an issue like this and make any sense of it, or bring a message of any hope.
The naturalist believes there is no God and that we are just accidents of time and chance. Therefore, there really is no ultimate reason or purpose behind our existence in the vast universe. Naturalists must realize that, in their belief system, thousands of their loved ones have died for no reason and we will never see them again forever and ever. Those who were burned alive or jumped to their deaths from the burning buildings, firemen who rushed in to the World Trade Center to rescue their fellow citizens, died a meaningless death and are now extinct forever. What hope, what meaning is there in the naturalist worldview? Where are the atheists and humanists proclaiming their message of eternal extinction? They are all silent.
Pantheists will state that evil and sin are really an illusion. How then do we respond to this event? The pantheist's understanding of reality and human nature cannot make sense of this act.
To the Postmodernists who believe all truth is relative and decided by each individual, can those who truly believe this say this was an evil act? Those who flew this suicide mission and their supporters say no. So do we have the right to condemn them? Relativists, I am sure, are rethinking their position. Americans are angered and seeking justice to be executed on the perpetrators. This is the only right response, to seek justice, and that can only be done if there is a universal basis for right and wrong. Otherwise, if we hold to the relativist's position, we should tolerate this act as a one group freely expressing their ideas. Fortunately for Christians, we can respond properly for there are absolutes of right and wrong declared to us from God's word. Only on this basis can we seek a basis for executing justice.
Only the Christian worldview can bring an understanding, meaning, and hope to this tragedy. The Christian worldview correctly diagnosis human nature, that man is created in the image of God but sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he falls prey to false beliefs and is capable of doing great evil. Only Christianity gives the message of hope that God is in control and will execute justice and one day overcome all evil. Only Christianity can give hope that those in Christ will live eternally in the presence of God. Life is fragile, but there is a life beyond the grave where justice is restored, peace is forever, and love will be experienced in its greatest way. Finally, seeking justice is the right response, for God's word states, "You shall not murder." Human life is sacred, and we are angered and in sorrow for beings made in the image of God are all valuable to Him and He weeps when they are destroyed by the evil we enact on fellow image bearers. This event only makes sense in reference to God.
That is why many are turning to Him now. Now is the time for Christians to expose false ideas and proclaim truth throughout our country and the world.
Second, it challenges us to see that religious values have consequences. What would motivate men to go on suicide missions and kill thousands of people? It is the Islamic belief that if a man dies in a Jihad, he will spend eternity in heaven sitting on couches, drinking wine, and enjoying the sensual pleasures of the heavenly maidens of whom he can take as many as he desires. This false religion, begun in violence, has devastating consequences of which we have now become aware. I can only conclude this is an evil force that has captured the hearts and minds of young men and led them to commit some of the worst acts of evil in the name of their false God. We Christians must pray and seek to win those lost Muslims to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
A recent bestdeller by Tom Brokaw is entitled The Greatest Generation. The people to whom he referred (and honored) were those who faced the horrors of World War II. They met their challenge with resolve and personal sacrifice, overcoming their enemies and helping to create a new "beginning" for planet Earth. Why were they "great?" What kind of environment could forge such men and women?
The fathers and mothers of this "great" generation entered the 20th century optimistically. The light bulb. The automobile. The airplane. But then came World War I. It was called The "Great War." And so it was. Never had the world seen such carnage on the battlefield. An estimated ten million died and twenty million were injured.
Quickly following came the "Great Depression." Times were hard in America, and the economy didn't really recover until the demands of war with Germany and Japan jump-started American industry. 400,000 Americans died in this war. Every home in America had been touched by death and injury to their friends and loved ones.
When it was over, this was a cleansed and grateful generation. No theory here. They had experienced and affirmed anew what they deemed REALLY important. The spirit, bravery, and sacrifice of their lives spilled over upon their children, the first post-war generation (baby boomers).
Life was good, and getting better. Unfortunately, it didn't last twenty years. The turbulent Sixties followed. Assassinations. Flower Children. Vietnam. Ingratitude. "Me First." Personal peace and affluence. Security. Unbridled freedom and non-stop entertainment of some kind.
While in church this first Sunday after September 11, I was struck by the awesome power of the words in the hymns we sang: "God of Our Fathers," "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," and "How Firm a Foundation." They just flew off the page at me! It made me realize that the people who wrote these great hymns were probably much closer to living every day in a world of "uncertainty" and danger which Americans have just now rediscovered in the reality of our current shock, grief, and even fear.
Perhaps this tragic event is an opportunity for all Americans to be cleansed and purged and purified to such an extent that we might be among those who one day could come to be honored as another "greatest" Generation.
A "legacy of faith" has been prevalent throughout the history of our country which has periodically refashioned and refreshed the nation, giving it a strong religious flavor, not unnoticed by foreign observers. English novelist and poet G.K. Chesterton remarked in 1922 that the United States is "a nation with the soul of a church." May it be so again in these days.
© 2001 Probe Ministries International