I don’t really feel like I want to reflect on this day for a couple of reasons. Primarily, I do not think that my thoughts can really add to what has and will be said by others nor can my words capture the value of the lives and innocence lost on that day. In addition, I knew no one directly affected by the attacks on 9/11/2001. That being said, just being an American and an Easterner, I felt those attacks and they seemed very close.

The day is still surreal 10 years later. I was born in Bayonne, NJ (across the river from NYC) and spent my first few years of life living in the NYC borough of Staten Island before the family moved sixty miles south to the Jersey Shore. It was there that we settled, but we always held NYC as the center of our “orbit”. Aunts, uncles and cousins lived and worked in NYC. On our annual trips back east it was not unusual to visit NYC and to visit family and to catch up with what was going on in “the City”, so it always seemed like extended home.

With that as background, when I reflect on that day and what those attacks meant, my mind runs to the judgment of God and the ongoing clash between good and evil, both on this earth and in the spiritual realms. As one who believes in the Bible it is quite apparent to me that God is good and that evil comes from rebellion against His perfectly ordered world. The evil begins with Satan and his angelic minions, but man has joined Satan in his rebellion against God and added human evil to the world.

It is also true that even though God is good, He sometimes plans calamity for individuals and nations that have been egregious in their rebellion against them (Ezekiel 5:14-16) AND particularly for those that might possibly receive that “discipline” with an attitude of repentance (Jeremiah 19). It is not as though God directly inflicts calamity, but that He either allows permission to Satan to inflict calamity (see Job or Nebuchadnezzar) for His own purposes or man has refused to recognize God’s authority over the nation and instead given Satan permission to reign and rule. Oppression always results.

That being said, it seems to me that as Americans and even as Christians we fall into two different extremes when thinking about these attacks, and the whole idea of good and evil and judgment. Either the attacks are God’s judgment for our wickedness, or these are totally unprovoked attacks by evil men following an evil doctrine taught by a violent religion. The latter thinking gives us carte blanche to do whatever it takes to avenge these attacks and to thwart any potential future attacks. The former way of thinking causes us to blame ourselves for what has happened and to apologize to those who attacked us so that they will not do it again. Since I don’t think either one of these responses are correct, what would a proper response be?

We are a great nation because we recognized God as sovereign from the very foundation of the Country, indeed as the raison d’être of our nation. (We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator…) On the night of the attacks the President of the United States reminded us of who we were (are) as a people:

“Tonight I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me.” This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”

We are a people of prayer and faith in God who reigns and rules in the nations of the world. We have followed the words in Jeremiah 22:15-16 (“Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?” declares the LORD.), and have been blessed as a nation. President Bush was reminding us of that on 09/11/2001, but we have been selective in our obedience. I will say more about that later.

To respond solely based on vengeance would not be appropriate for a people who see God as their sovereign. “Vengeance is mine,” says that Lord. “I will repay.” Instead, we would understand that we are a people under God that would want to respond in a manner that protected justice and freedom and liberty; not for the pleasure of revenge, but because it is right.

The second response, to apologize to our attackers and seek their forgiveness, would be to mistake their evil for something that we deserve and they are justified in doing. This response does not recognize that it is God to whom we must apologize, or ask forgiveness of, because we have violated His commands. If we allow that our attackers are justified by virtue of our sin, than we validate our response in revenge. America has been great because, for the most part, we seek liberty, freedom and justice for the oppressed, not solely revenge. Revenge breeds more violence, but pursuit of liberty and freedom breeds peace and harmony among nations (Japan, Eastern Europe).

I think that we must respond in two ways to these attacks. The first response is to recognize that as a people of faith, of those who trust in God, we have not honored Him. We have not pled the cause of the afflicted and the needy. We are guilty of enslaving millions in the poverty of a welfare state and we are guilty of silence as nearly 60 million unborn babies have been killed in the womb in the past 40 years. We have kicked God out of the schools and increasingly out of the public square. Our entertainment is more and more anti-God and anti-morality. We have glorified promiscuity and we are reaping the judgment of dead children and diseased adults. Will we repent? Shortly after the attacks on 9/11 the churches were filled with people praying, but were they repenting? The fruit of our lives would say that we have not, and that we did not even recognize that the attacks were an indication that we were drifting far from the favor and protection of God.

We can not expect our political leaders to lead us in repentance; this is something that the church must do. Indeed, Mayor Bloomberg in NYC would not allow clergy to be part of the remembrance services, so to look to our political leaders for spiritual leadership is a mistake. We must take that lead. God is not deaf and He famously told us in 2 Samuel 7:14 “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” So our first response to these attacks must be for the church to lead the way in repenting for the sins of our nation. They are many, but they are not such that God will not forgive us and heal us.

Our second response as a church is that we must understand that God is interested in justice and freedom and he is concerned for the oppressed and we should not offer excuses for the evil that is emanating from the Middle East and that is empowering our enemies to rain down terror on the Western World. The same terror that is raining down terror is also oppressing millions upon millions of people in darkness and bondage. We should be advocates for the oppressed and intercede for and encourage those who are traveling thousands of miles from home and family to put their lives in the gap for those who are oppressed to try to set them free. Evil is real and must be opposed, not excused and not apologized to. Evil is real and God is not neutral.

As the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks comes and goes, my fervent hope and prayer for our country and for the church of Christ in this nation is that we would we become leaders in repentance, leaders in intercession and leaders in advocacy for the oppressed peoples of the world and those who are risking their lives to secure freedom for us and for those oppressed.