I stood in front of the Twin Towers 9 days before they fell.
I was a junior in High School when we were attacked. The event had a similar effect on me as Pearl Harbor did on my grandfather – I joined the US Coast Guard. (I’m still in the service – 3rd generation in my family, first to graduate from the Academy.) I also hate visiting NYC because I always feel like I’m about to be blown up. (Paranoid? Probably.)
9/11 significantly affected my life.
And this is really the first year I’ve spent time reflecting seriously on the event. I’ve concluded that most of the contemporary dialogue from Christians isn’t too helpful. And worse, devoid of Christ. This could be misinterpreted so I want to make sure you understand what I’m not saying:
I Do Not Say, “9/11 Was Not God’s Will”
Certainly, the attack broke God’s commands not to murder and to love. In that sense it was not God’s will. However, I join Amos in asking, “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6) I also join John Piper in recognizing:
God “works all things after the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). This “all things” includes the fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6).
I Do Not Say, “9/11 Was God’s Judgment”
I believe that God intended to allow 9/11. That does not mean I believe we can say with any certainty what His aims were. Temporal punishment is routinely a call to repentance in the Bible. In Jesus’ day a tower fell and killed 18 people. How did Jesus respond?
“Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Jesus’ primary concern in that strikingly similar disaster was not comforting those who lost loved ones in a temporal sense. He was concerened with comforting them eternally with the gospel.
Our reaction to tragedies – both natural and manmade – should be to call the world to repentance. Disaster is a wake-up call to our own mortality and a foothold for the gospel to shine forth.
I Do Say, “We Can Trust God”
Here is where the gospel enters into my response. I haven’t heard this from anyone in the Church and I think it’s the foundation of how we should respond to events like 9/11.
I trust God in disasters because of the greatest disaster. He didn’t just use the biggest calamity in world history for good; He orchestrated it. I’m talking about the death of Jesus. Peter put it like this:
You killed the Author of life…
That’s bad news. In fact, it’s the worst news ever. Jesus, the one “for whom and by whom all things exist” (Heb 2:10), was murdered. There is no worse news. This is the greatest disaster in history. But God had planned it for good:
…Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.
God orchestrated the greatest disaster ever to secure for us eternity spent with the God who would dare to die for His enemies.
I think I can trust him in the smaller disasters.
Image by wstera2