Summary: Message for the Sunday following the attack of September 11, 2001.
September 16, 2001
We’ve wandered in a haze now for six days. Some fitting words for this week were sung several years ago by Bruce Cockburn, “Sometimes a wind comes out of nowhere and knocks you off your feet.” A wind has come out of New York and Washington, knocked us off our feet, and we have found ourselves on our knees.
At 8:45 a.m. Eastern Time, Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the United States of America was assaulted. Four Boeing jets forced from their familiar paths…
American Airlines Flights 11 and 73
United Airlines Flights 175 and 93
Two planes hit the World Trade Center – thousands dead, many still missing
One plane hits the Pentagon – nearly 200 are killed
Another plane misses its target, but over 40 sacrificial heroes die.
With all that has been said this week, what more can one possibly say? What more should one say?
I’m reminded of something C.S. Lewis once wrote.
“God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.” – C.S. Lewis
We’re definitely in pain, so if Lewis is right, God’s voice ought to be very audible. But what is it that God wants us to know right now? What words does God want a nation under attack to hear?
If we’re willing to listen, God’s message is clear.
TRANSITION: First, God says to us…
I. OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD
Has the attack on America made you angry? One of the most common sentiments I have heard expressed this past week is anger. And rightly so. Thousands of lives lost. Senseless acts of violence.
In Psalm 137 the Israelite poets record some words of national anger. Their beloved city of Jerusalem had been ransacked by the armies of Babylon. To make matters worse Israel’s blood-relatives, the Edomites, assisted in the massacre. They lended their aid and support to these terrorist activities. One thing you’ve got to love about the Psalmists is they didn’t hide their feelings when they talked to God. So they said…
Remember, O Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”
Perhaps not that different from the cry of those who attacked the World Trade Center. But listen to what comes next…
O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. (Psalm 137:7-8)
That may be something like what we’re feeling right now.
We want to say – “Who did this? Who’s responsible? They’re going to get it and ten times worse. Let’s find these miserable terrorist cowards and the ones who house them and turn their country into a parking lot.”
We’re tempted to think of the most gruesome consequences – we fantasize about how we’d like to see them punished for what they have done to us.
“Happy is the one who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks!”
We want revenge.
A Chicago Tribune reader from Berwyn named Scott Plapp wrote to the paper on Tuesday… “It’s time for revenge, not justice. Terrorists do not deserve the justice of a civilized society. An eye for an eye might be appropriate. Better yet, let’s make it two eyes for an eye.”
Anger. Revenge. It’s what we feel.
But listen to what God promises in Romans 12…
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19, 21)
We say, “Nobody does this to the United States of America and gets away with it!” How true. But God says it is mine to avenge.
The same is true of Afganistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Canada, Switzerland, Zaire, Mexico, Indonesia and Croatia. No one can unjustly attack them and get away with it either. God says vengeance is mine. He says, “I will repay.” He’s not going to let justice go undone.
So, beware. Make no mistake about it. Whoever you are who did this. You will pay, and you will pay dearly before Almighty God. Justice will be done and He will repay. However, that’s God’s job to do the repaying, not yours and mine. Let’s be secure enough in our relationship with God to tell him our anger in all its ferocity and explosiveness, then allow Him to seek justice.
But also understand this. The Bible teaches us that God has placed government officials in office to uphold justice. Romans 13:1 says the authorities that exist have been established by God.
At times justice is upheld through acts of military retaliation.
If this act of terrorism leads to an American military strike, and I hope it does not, but if it does, then that is how justice will be done. I trust our leaders to pray and God will lead them to uphold justice. The question for us, as citizens, is do we long more for God’s justice or American revenge? The follower of Jesus will have no interest in revenge – only in God’s justice.