|picture from: Greg Boyd|
Last night, I watched part of NBC’s two hour special on 9/11. Filled with personal stories and moment-by-moment commentary, emotions inside me raged and my eyes welled with tears. But none of those emotions were of hate…none of national or personal righteousness.
All of us remember exactly where we were when we heard the news. Brushing my teeth getting ready to head into work at a resort in Scottsdale, my mom yelled up to me in my room “Come here!” I ran downstairs to images that will be sketched into my mind and heart forever. I stared in disbelief at my TV screen. Paralyzed. Unable to think, act, or speak. I still had to go into work, but I essentially drove as a zombie listening to news radio. When I arrived at the resort, I was unprepared for what was next. We were hosting a major conference that week for accounting firm, Deloitte & Touche. What I did not know is that they had many offices and staff in the Twin Towers. There was a heavy somberness in the air. Crying. Blank stares. Slow movement. Time seemed to stand still. It all seemed so unreal.
9/11 came at a critical juncture of my life. I was just being delivered from my old self and slowing letting Jesus take over my life.
Would this event shatter everything God had worked in my life?
Would I turn to hate?
Would I blame Muslims?
Would I turn to revenge?
Would I run to fear? Or fear mongering?
Would I make an enemy in my heart of someone(s) after Jesus showed love to me as His enemy?
I had a choice to make…turn to forgiveness, reconciliation, and the message of the cross…or to revenge, enmity, and the myth of redemptive violence.
In the hours, days, weeks, months, and even years following 9/11, I would learn a lot about myself and the faith God had given me in this new global reality. My friend and I discussed yesterday, as we were reflecting on 9/11, that on this day our aura of invincibility as Americans, living in seemingly isolated America, dissolved and that “our reality became the reality that most the world’s population lives in day after day.” There is terror seen…and unseen…ravaging our world right now as I type this and as you read this. There are genocides, famines, women and children sold into sex slavery, and unjust deaths of thousands of people ravaged by extreme poverty. That is our current global reality. That is terror, too. I ask myself the question as I ask you: are we as outraged by these terrors?
I would eventually be called into full-time ministry and would study major religions. When I share my testimony, I often cite that I learned more about Islam in my last few months of seminary than I did Christianity. I would have to do a lot of damage control among Christian friends and peers on Islam/Muslims. I would eventually leave the USA to go to a country deeply affected by this “war on terror” in order to bring a different message of forgiveness, reconciliation, and grace. I want to launch a “war for hope”. I am reminded by my friend, Shane Claiborne's, words...if we think any person (or terrorist) is beyond the grace of God, then we need to rip out half of our New Testament because it is written by a converted terrorist.
Christianity Today wrote a piece on 9/11 for this month’s cover story (“The Gospel at Ground Zero”) that is well worth checking out. In it, writer Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, reminds us, “The Scriptures command us to be gentle and kind to unbelievers, not because we are not at war, but because we're not at war with them (2 Tim. 2:26).” And that is what we need to always remember. And that is how I choose to live my life. I live this way because I have tasted grace so deeply…tasted forgiveness….tasted reconciliation from my God and my Savior that in turn it’s the only message I want to give back to the world and my enemies.
“Never Forget!” is the message invoked for good and ill. Its our cry for remembrance (good) but its also our cry for revenge (not so good). And I haven’t forgotten and will never forget. Around 3,000 people died unjustly that day ten years ago. But as Christians, we now have two different paths in front of us on how we deal with this internal struggle: one path says clearly: we are all enemies of God, all in need of grace, all desperate for forgiveness and reconciliation. The other path declares: eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, forgiveness and reconciliation isn’t an option, that they are the “axis of evil” which makes us by default..what..the axis of…good? And the irony isn’t lost on me: one of these paths appears to lead to life, but actually leads to death….and the other appears to lead to death, but instead leads to life. I choose life.