Sep 12, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Like many of you, I spent a lot of time this weekend watching 9/11 memorials and tributes.  Auburn University and the band did a fantastic job yesterday morning honoring the victims of 9/11 in it's pregame program. It has been difficult to see the images and hear some of the stories.  It's also been refreshing to hear some of the stories of heroism at Ground Zero and the Pentagon again that remind us that as Americans we have a kindred spirit to help our neighbors.  That's one of the beautiful thing about being an American.  Most of us are very patriotic and when you hurt one of us, all are affected.

9/11 will probably go down as the major defining moment of my generation.  My grandfather's generation had Pearl Harbor that ushered in a patriotic fervor and involved them in a global war against tyranny.  This will be our "Pearl Harbor" with a few major exceptions.  For one, the technology and media coverage that ensued immediately following the first attack will preserve forever the images of people jumping to their death, of the gaping holes in the tower, and of the horrors of watching them fall floor by floor in front of our eyes.  Just like Pearl Harbor in my grandparent's generation, everyone in this generation will remember vividly where they were and how they felt on September 11th.  My family and I were in Hilton Head, South Carolina on a beach vacation.  Our oldest son was just shy of 2 years old and our second son was seven months old.  My wife and Nathan were in the pool for an early morning swim and I was surfing the Internet for information about MSU football when someone posted on a message board that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center.  I turned on the TV and became entranced by the moment.

9/11 is a moment that still invokes fear.  It is a moment that brings us face-to-face with our own frailty.  It is a reminder that as much as we like to believe we have sovereignty of our lives, we are ultimately in the hands of someone else.  Here are some other lessons I have learned in the wake of 9/11.

1.  This world and the United States of America is not my "home" - Don't mistake this for anti-patriotism.  I am as proud to be an American as Lee Greenwood.  I cry every time I hear that song played at the laser show at Stone Mountain.  However, earth and the US are just a temporary residence for me while inhabiting an earthly body.  Scripture says that the believer is an "alien and stranger" here on earth.  While I love baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Ford (ok, I know it's supposed to be Chevrolet, but I'm a Ford man), I also hold loosely to my allegiance to any earthly kingdom.  For me, there is one "king" and he is "King of Kings".  I enjoy the earthly benefits of a democracy while I live in the reality of a theocracy.  One day I will enjoy for eternity the benefits of my heavenly citizenship.  In the meantime, I had the privilege of living in a great country and enjoying the benefits of religious freedom.

2. Our fears and vulnerabilities are not enough to motivate us towards true repentance - Think about the weeks after September 11.  Every church was filled with people looking for answers.  I don't think most churches were ready to deal from a biblical standpoint with what was happening.  Most churches I know of were still very much entrenched in the "felt-needs" and "seeker-sensitive" models that tried to comfort fears, but didn't hold out the hope of the gospel and how 9/11 should drive us to our need and dependency on the gospel.  Most of us saw the numerical influx as great for business, but it didn't last.  Why?  Because fear is a bad motivator for true repentance.  This is why I don't believe the Judgment House mentality works all that well.  I understand and embrace showing people the realities of sin and judgment, but scare tactics into heaven, in my experience, don't last.  True repentance has to start with the gospel by showing that our sin is a violation of God's character and not just a ticket into hell.  When people are afraid, that is a great time to take them not to the realities of hell, but to the sufficiency of God our refuge. 

3.  Despite our attempts in America at pluralism, 9/11 is a sure indicator that all religious faiths are not equally valid - I have no beef with Muslims except that I think their faith claim is false.  It breaks my heart that millions of people around the world believe a religious ideology that claims an exclusive path into Paradise apart from Jesus Christ.  I certainly don't think all or most Muslims are terrorist extremists who want to kill Americans.  I think the terrorists that planned and executed the 9/11 attacks were motivated more by political ideology than true religious ideology.  I also don't even come close to thinking that America is a "Christian nation" and that makes us a target for religious extremists.  However, at it's core, the September 11 attacks come from centuries of conflict that date back to a very unwise move by Abraham thousands of years ago.  The disaster of 9/11 should show us that while we may try to build a more loving, unified world, opposing truth claims will eventually come into conflict, sometimes with violent ends.

In closing, as an American, my heart breaks and righteous indignation wells up inside me every time I see the images of 9/11.  I am proud and grateful for the thousands of men and women who have fought for our independence and freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last ten years.  I know many who have paid a heavy price to ensure that we are a free nation, that freedom is extended to others, and that crimes like those of 9/11 will be justly punished.  I am so grateful for the men who risked their lives to take down Osama Bin Laden and am glad that his regime is over.  I am thankful that the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein has ended.  However, I know that my ultimate aim is not to see America as the worldwide great hope, but to see Jesus Christ rightly enthroned on this earth as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  When he returns, all justice will be meted out and the righteous will finally proper.