Today marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Since this day fell on a Sunday, churches everywhere had an opportunity to reflect on the anniversary of an event that shocked the world. In our worship service this morning, our band did a special musical number by country singer Allen Jackson. The song repeated one line over and over again: “Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?”
It turned out to be not only a good question to ask, but a revealing one as well. We decided to start our small groups off with this question after the service. What followed was an incredible experience for me personally. I was able to sit and listen to my students explain where they were on September 11th, 2001 and also what their thoughts and emotions were on this day that happened so long ago. Most of them were in first or second grade at the time; a few were even younger than that. Most of the comments shared were feelings of confusion, frustration, and grief. I found myself reminiscing as well. In 2001 I was a sophmore in high school, only sixteen at the time. I realized more and more as I listened to our students that this was an event that began to shape our outlook and define much of our perception of the world, especially for some of my students who were just starting out life in 2001.
Needless to say, it was a difficult topic to cover. The events of 9/11 have had a profound effect on everyone of us. Perhaps we longed for justice to be issued. Maybe we mourned for those who lost their lives. Or we applauded the men and women who sacrificially gave of themselves to save others by either running into the burning towers that day, or participating in the aftermath of the conflict. Quite possibly we experienced those three examples and copious amounts more. Trying to process the event, even ten years later is difficult.
Moreover, the events of 9/11 make us deal with a number of emotions–anger, sadness, despair. Undoubtedly, many of us have experienced these, especially those of us who lost a loved one during the attacks.
I was surprised even by some of my own emotions as I traveled back in time to that fateful day and tried to process all that has transpired over the years and even coming to terms with how I feel about it now. I am still unbelievably saddened and astounded at the atrocities that take place in our world. It is hard to wrap my mind around the pain that has been inflicted on so many people during the attacks and the subsequent wars. Events like this solidify an understanding of the very real existence of evil in our world and the way we wage war against the spiritual powers and authorities of this dark world (Ephesians 6:12). This is a sobering reality indeed–to look upon suffering and death and to realize that in many ways we have no control over it. The events of 9/11 and following have changed the world for all of us.
I am encouraged, however, when I realize an important truth in all of this. Even though we live in a world where acts of evil are a daily reality, we have hope. Jesus Christ, our risen lord, offers real change and real peace. He is the final word in all matters. There is no tragedy that is so deep that He is not there in our midst. As Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
As members of His Kingdom, our goal is to live and mimic Christ in every way (Ephesians 5:1). The word translated “mimic” in Ephesians 5 is the word for “shadow.” We are to be Christ’s shadow in the world, staying that close to Him. His words and deeds become our own.
Equally revealing, our Jesus’ own words in the Sermon on the Mount to practice “turning the other cheek” and “loving our enemies.” We may never fully understand how one applies this in foreign affairs, war, or when dealing with evil and terrorism. I for one, certainly don’t assume to have answers here. Nevertheless, I find solace trusting in what Scripture reveals. Jesus, our King, is the Rider on the White Horse (Revelation 19:11-21. Jesus comes back on a white horse, a king’s horse ). He is the Alpha and the Omega–the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13). And He is the foundation of all truth and life itself (John 14:6).
It is my prayer and hope that today would be a time of honoring and remembering those who so valiantly gave their lives ten years ago. May it also be a time of praying for all the lives lost on 9/11 and following, including Iraqis, Afghans, Americans, and terrorists. Furthermore, I pray that today would cause us to grieve over the reality of evil and terror that exists everywhere in this world and would cause us to cry out to God. May we seek with all that we are to live the way of Jesus as citizens of his Kingdom first, and may we humbly move forward together in solidarity, striving to honor and glorify our King, awaiting the one-day reality of Heaven on earth.