Summary: A reminder of God’s redemptive work in a world torn by hate and violence with reference to 9-11
I want to begin by telling you about something happened to me in college.
I didn’t have a car as a freshman, but in 1959 I got my grandpa’s 1951 Chevy, which I drove from my home in Iowa to Hesston, Kansas, where I attended college. It was a nice car and I liked it. I didn’t drive it much at college. Most of the time it stayed parked.
Toward spring, as the days warmed up, I began to notice an odor in the car. I couldn’t quite identify what it was. The next time I went to the car, the smell was even stronger so I searched the car: inside, under the hood, and then in the trunk where I found the surprise of my life. There lying on the floor of the trunk was a dead coyote. As I recall, I made a quick trip out to the countryside with it. But, even though I washed the car inside and out and used several kinds of deodorizers, I was never able to get that smell out of the car.
I had a pretty good idea who was behind it. Three guys in my dorm occasionally had fun at my expense. For example, I always got up early to read my Bible and pray. I think it was at 5:00. One night someone set my alarm so that I got up at 4:00 the next morning! One guy I suspected was my roommate since he knew where I kept my keys, but I had no direct evidence linking him to the crime. So any attempt on my part to retaliate would likely have gotten me into trouble.
I had absolutely no clue why they might have done it. After all, I was a good student. I followed all the rules. I attended chapel. I always went to church on Sundays. I went to Wichita sometimes to help a city church knock on doors. And I was president of the campus Christian association. So, if anyone had told me then that the way I lived my life somehow triggered this mean response on the part of these guys, I probably wouldn’t have been able to hear it. It’s pretty hard to hear things like that when you are the target of an attack, especially if you think everything you’ve been doing is good.
One thing I knew, though, was that even though I felt wounded inside, as a follower of Jesus I should treat my enemies as Jesus had commanded:
• I should pray for them (which I did),
• I should bless those who persecute me (which I’m not sure I did),
• I should not repay evil for evil (which I didn’t),
• I should leave room for God’s judgment and try to overcome evil with good (which I tried to do).
When we gathered here at church for worship four Sundays ago, none of us had any idea that our world would change so dramatically the following Tuesday and that images of death and destruction would haunt our minds for weeks to come. And it seems to me that right now our nation faces a dilemma similar to the one I faced in 1960, but on a much larger scale.
• We think we know who was behind the attack, although proving it in court would be difficult.
• We can’t figure out why they might have done it because we have the impression that what America does is right and good and surely no one could hate us for that.
• We are not sure what, if anything, God has to do with these events, so our nation has turned to military might to search out and destroy perpetrators and supporters of these attacks.
Hearing God’s Voice
Unfortunately, media reports have focused our attention so narrowly on who was responsible for this attack and how to retaliate that we have not given much consideration to our own need of repentance or to what God may be saying to us. In the Old Testament, when tragedies and calamities struck, prophets preached that God allowed such events to happen so that people would repent of their sins and turn back to God. It’s so easy to justify ourselves that we fail to hear God’s voice calling us to make changes.
Dr. Henry Blackaby, in Experiencing God, said recently, "As I read the scripture, I see a progressive word from God as it relates to the judgment of God. He does not bring a final judgment on a nation in one shot. He will speak to them and the Holy Spirit will convict them of sin. If they don’t respond He will send someone to warn them. If they don’t listen to him, we see that He sends remedial judgments upon the people of God and upon the nation. These are judgments that are not final, but are designed to catch their attention and cause them to return to Him.