Remembering 9/11

This month is the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States — what has come to be known simply as 9/11.

In 2001 I was serving as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana. On September 11 I was scheduled to fly from Atlanta to Indianapolis after concluding some business at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Georgia.

My plans changed.

I shared my thoughts and experiences of that day in my editorial in the Indiana Baptist, the official news journal of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana. Ten years later, I share that editorial with you…

Demanding Justice?

I wanted justice.

After denial gave way to belief. When the shock began to subside. When I finally accepted the fact that terrorists had hijacked four American passenger planes and crashed them into various targets along the eastern seaboard I wanted justice.

I was in Alpharetta, Georgia at the North American Mission Board when I heard the news on Sept. 11, 2001. I was scheduled to fly home later that same day, but ended up waiting at a Hertz rental car counter for almost five hours before I was able to get a care for my 9-hour drive to Indianapolis. I had a lot of time to consider the events of the day and ample opportunity to see, first hand, a nation thrown into near chaos. The more I thought and the more I saw, the more I wanted justice.

Images came at me so fast that day I barely had time to process what was happening. There was the prayer time at the North American Mission Board chapel where I saw brothers and sisters coming before God able only to trust in His sovereignty over something we could not understand.

There was the time I spent with the man who drove my shuttle to the airport. A native of South Africa with a great deal of experience with this sort of thing, he told me he was indeed a Christian (seminary trained) but wanted me to understand the only way to deal with terrorists is to “hunt them down and exterminate them.”

There was the news of 1,500 passengers stranded in Atlanta’s airport and of the restaurant owners who fed them for free.

I saw a man come into the Hertz office and get incredibly upset because the lady behind the desk was going to have to run a few things through the computer in order to get him on his way. The delay, she said, would be about 10 minutes. He almost blew his top, as if there were not thousands of people having a much worse day.

I waited in gas lines in Murphreesboro, Tennessee.

Mostly I had time to think, and it occurred to me that every now and then God gives us a glimpse of just how despicable sin really is. The terrorists who attacked America showed the world what full-strength sin looks like. It is easy for us to look at the behavior of those particular sinners and see how God would be justified in pouring out His wrath on them. I was just about the pray for that very thing when something else occurred to me…

I am just as deserving of God’s justice as are these terrorists.

Oh, I’ve never murdered innocent people by the thousands the way they did, but my heart was just as dark and my nature just as depraved as theirs. On my own I stand just as guilty before a Holy God as they do.

There is just one difference.

Rather than subject me to the justice I so richly deserve, God, in His love and mercy, chose to give me grace instead. Had God removed His hand of grace from me and turned me over to my own sinful nature I would have been capable of crimes just as despicable. But He showed me grace.

When I think that God views my sin as something just as heinous as the terrorist attacks of September 11, I realize just how precious is the grace I have received.

So, instead of praying for justice for terrorists, I will pray that God will provide the means for them to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, be convicted of their sin by the Holy Spirit, and that He will save them.

After the attacks Senator John McCain stood on the floor of the U.S. Senate and said to the terrorists, “We are coming. God may show you mercy. We will not.”

As believers I think our prayer should be, “May God show you mercy.”

I had wanted justice. But, if everyone deserving of justice got it that would include me. I don’t want justice. I want mercy. I want grace.

Those of us who have received grace should want it for others, too. How could we want anything else?

Note: This editorial originally ran in the September 25, 2001 issue of the Indiana Baptist.

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About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

One Response to Remembering 9/11

  1. Pingback: 9/11′s Lesson for the Church « Thideology™

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