Summary: What have we learned in the 10 years since the 9-11 attackes on America?
“What have We Learned?”
Gen. 11:1-9; Prov. 18:10
It seems like such an ancient, “Once upon a time” sort of story – an egotistical nation so advanced and industrious that she thinks she can do what she wants. So she builds a tower to represent her dominion over the world. Then one day, her plans were blown apart. The tower would not be finished; she knew she was no longer in control. Ten years ago we learned this is not an ancient tale – rather, it was very real. America, the most advanced and powerful nation in the world, built her towers and invited the world to come and join her. The towers became a center of worldwide activity, a symbol of the strength and influence of America. Meanwhile her citizens slowly began to think they were in control - that God, if He existed, had been displaced. Pride replaced humility, rights replaced gratitude and responsibility, and apathy replaced patriotism; invincibility set in. Then, Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, the tower fell, and our lives and our nation have not been the same.
You probably remember where you were and what you were doing at the moment you heard about it. And you can still recall what you did the rest of the day. I remember it very clearly. We tried to contact our son whose office is in the heart of downtown Washington D.C. – no answer. We police chaplains were called together to be updated and put on alert. The staff of our church pre-school and learning center asked me to meet with them to help process their emotions. And that was just the first half of the day! Writing the sermon for that next Sunday was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. It’s one of those days we will never forget.
My intent this morning is not to relive that day or week, but to reflect on what we’ve learned in these intervening ten years. Time does not permit lifting up all the lessons, so I am offering my pastoral perspective on just a few. I will not give a full exposition on any of them but, rather, attempt only to plant some seeds that can take root in your minds and hearts.
LESSON #1: BELIEFS ARE IMPORTANT. Radical Muslims, because of their beliefs about Allah, believe martyrdom earns salvation and therefore are willing to be killed in the process of killing those they perceive as the enemies of Allah. Christians, because of their beliefs about Jesus Christ, do not seek martyrdom by killing their perceived enemies, but are to be willing to be martyred if threatened with death for their witness to Jesus. BELIEFS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. As David Shibley points out in Charisma Magazine, “The terrorists …were driven – not by money or fame – but by a destructive belief system. Don’t ever think personal theology doesn’t have public consequences.” What we believe determines how we live and act.
Beliefs are important also because TRUTH TRIUMPHS. I recently read about Fiona Havlish, whose husband was killed in the tower collapse. Her husband’s remains were among the last to be found and identified. She admits the road to recovery has been long and hard. But she said, “I realized I had to make a choice: Do I believe in God, or not? So I went out by the canal and just sat there imagining life without God, without the support…and life with God and with the support. And it was literally night and day. I felt so supported. That began a whole new journey for me…a whole new life.” Jesus said (Jn. 14:6) He was the truth and that (Jn. 16:33) “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Truth triumphs. Beliefs are important.
LESSON #2: GOD IS SOVEREIGN. If we didn’t believe it before 9-11, we certainly discovered that OUR WORLD IS FILLED WITH EVIL. Amid our peace and prosperity we had forgotten what the face of sheer evil looks like – but we were vividly reminded. The face became all too clear when the tower fell. We do know the face of our enemy – and it is the face of evil. But we are not, in reality, fighting a person or another nation or a fanatical religion; we are fighting the powers of evil. Paul painted a brilliantly colored picture in Ephesians 6:10 ff.: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”