This week will mark 10 years since tragic terrorist attacks of 9-11. I’ve been wondering what we have learned from this tragedy. Did we learn anything at all? Are we safer that we were a decade ago? Probably not, but then again safety is always an illusion. No one is ever safe from mad men with a mission. Are we wiser? Five minutes with any of our 24 news networks will show you that isn’t the case. McCarthyism is alive and well in the sense that we are constantly making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. Are we less racist now? I doubt our citizens of Middle Eastern descent would say so. Are we more violent? I don’t know if I would say more violent, but we always have been a violent country, the most violent the world has ever seen in the scope of history.
So let me ask this, what should we learn from 9-11? I can’t speak for everyone but as a person who follows Jesus the only answer I can come up with is forgiveness. Violence creates violence. Violent people create more violent people. The terrorists who attacked us so brutally had themselves been brutalized throughout their lives. Thank God that He showed us what is means to forgive. When terrorists nailed Jesus to a brutal Roman instrument of torture and death, his response was “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
Forgiveness is not easy. I repeat, forgiveness is NOT easy. Neither is violence and retaliation. It’s not that the victims of injustice just say it’s okay we don’t care. As N. T. Wright observes, “Forgiveness does not mean ‘I didn’t mind’ or ‘it didn’t matter.’ I did mind and it did matter; otherwise there wouldn’t be anything to forgive at all.”
It takes a heart full of love to forgive. A man who experiences love when violence is what he deserves will find himself a changed man. If you are a Christian then you serve a master who tells you to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. You don’t have to be a person of love and forgiveness. You can strap on your guns and go blazing in like John Wayne stacking up more violence on top of the violence already done. You don’t have to forgive and you certainly don’t have to pray for your enemies. But if we don’t learn to forgive and love the unlovely then we need to stop calling ourselves Christians. Let us pray:
“Father, we don’t know how to love like You love us. We all watched in horror on September 11th. Our disbelief turned to fear and our fear turned to anger and hatred. Only You can take all these feelings, all these hurts, all this injustice and turn it into love. Change our hearts, our minds, and our strengths so that we will love not only our neighbors as ourselves, but our enemies as well. We all deserve Your wrath but in Your righteousness You give us mercy. We pray in the name of Your Son Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that we might let you be the God who avenges evil, so that we can be men and women who are changed by Your mercy. Amen”