Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thoughts on 9/11 anniversary

I, like most USAmericans, can remember pretty specific details of where we were and what we were doing on 2/11/01. I remember watching the news and seeing the World Trade Center collapse over the shoulder of the news commentary moments before he realized what had just happened. I was working from my office at Christ Community in Syracuse and called the staff in and we watched and wondered and prayed. We began to hear stories and rumors and all the rest of it. We fretted and we worried (and we prayed some more). We learned that the church community had family working in and around Ground Zero. We prayed for their safety. We learned that there was a second attack on the Pentagon and an additional crash in Pennsylvania. We watched and we prayed.

And then reality and the need to return to normalcy takes over. There are grieving people and worried people and scared people to speak with, pray with, and encourage. I spoke at a Men's gathering (the principle speaker could not make it due to all of the plane flights being grounded). I spoke about restraint, grace and above all the Christian mandate to forgive. Forgiveness is not a good idea it is an essential ingredient of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us to pray "forgive us our sins AS WE forgive those who sin against us". Jesus does not seem to suggest there is forgiveness on any other terms.

Forgiveness. Most of us labor under the misapprehension that forgiveness is the same as "excusing". We seem to think that forgiveness is another way of saying it didn't matter, it didn't hurt, or that it was really OK to do what was done. But this is not the case. Forgiveness is giving up my personal right for revenge -- to get even. Forgiveness is God's way of helping us surrender the need to be avenged. Maybe that is why the Bible says "vengeance is mine, says the LORD." If we trust it to God we can let it go and forgive and be forgiven.

Christ followers know that the price of forgiveness is not easy, cheap, or sloppy grace. Christ followers know that the price of forgiveness was the life of God's one and only begotten Son. If the price of forgiveness was the life of the Son of God . . . maybe I could be inconvenienced too. I doubt that a nation, any nation, will allow itself to practice this level of self abasement and humility to surrender the right of revenge. But Jesus did not come to convert institutions or political entities -- he came to reach men and women (expecting that they would change the world around them).

Anyway, 9/11/01 -- horrible, difficult day. But, like all of life, a day of learning and understanding. My question 10 years later has not changed. I ask today what I asked then: Will I respond with hatred and more violence or will I take the healing road of grace and forgiveness?



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