The Biggest Lesson I Learned From 9/11

One of the most remarkable aspects of the 9/11 attack was how it briefly brought the community of our nation together in a way that looked more like the life of the Trinity.

Jesus has included humanity in his life with the Father, in the communion of their Spirit, and that life is a life of eternally reaching out to embrace and accept others (Eph. 2:15, John 14:20.) For a little while after the attack we really reached out and embraced each other in a way that better reflected the real life of the Trinity in which we are included.

Crisis has a way of moving us to embrace each other and treat each other with more kindness and respect. For those few weeks no congressman shouted “you lie!” at the President. Of course it didn’t last, our fallenness in Adam reasserts itself pretty quickly after the crisis has passed.

And our embrace of others never extended to our enemies, the way the embrace of the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit extends to their enemies (Rom. 5:10.)

In describing the life of the Trinity – the life that he has included humanity in – Jesus said:

You have heard it said, “Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.But I say to you, “Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you.” ~ Matthew 5:43-44

This is pretty much the opposite of what our nation has been doing for the last eight years. We were so angry at being attacked that we not only hated our enemies (Al-Qaeda) and attacked them, we also hated and attacked those who sheltered them (Afghanis) and we hated and attacked those that we were afraid might attack us someday (Iraqis.) In contrast to this approach, Jesus – when he was attacked and killed – said “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” And for 2,000 years the martyrs of the Church have said the same as Jesus shares his faith with them.

In the light of our grief, outrage, and fear at being attacked, how can we possibly love our enemies?

We can only do it when we see them the way the Father sees them: as his children, included in his life through his Son Jesus Christ but not living in step with the Holy Spirit in whom Jesus has baptized them (Rom 5:18.)

That’s the vision of humanity that Jesus had on the cross: the vision that, in him, we are one new humanity that needs to learn to live like what we really are: adopted children of the Father. To pray for our enemies is to pray that they will stop attacking people and start believing the truth of who they are in Christ. To love them is to refuse to stoop to their level and to refuse to respond with an “eye for an eye.” To do good to our enemies is to allow ourselves to be persecuted in order to participate with Jesus in his reconciliation of the whole world (Col. 1:20.)

I don’t really know what it would look like for an entire nation to live out the life of the Trinity in this way – it’s never been done before.

Sometimes the Church has lived this way (as in the first three centuries of Christianity or in modern China) and everytime the Church has lived this way it has changed the world for the better. But the only way the Church can live this way is to have a clear picture of who Jesus is as the adoption of humanity into the life of the Trinity and right now the Church in America does not have the clarity of that picture. And so, the Church in America – by and large – has been happy and excited to see our nation attack and kill our enemies. After all, we don’t see our enemies the way Jesus sees them. We see them as firewood for God’s eternal bonfire of hell and Jesus sees them as his brothers and sisters who live and move and have their being in him (Heb. 2:13, Acts 17:28.)

For me, personally, this is the biggest lesson I learned from that terrible day eight years ago: the whole world, including the Church, is in desperate need of a much clearer picture of Jesus. Come, Holy Spirit, and give us more of the light of Jesus!

~ Jonathan Stepp

3 comments so far

  1. Boyd Merriman on

    I found that disturbing how much the Church at large (Western) has gotten behind the retaliation band wagon. I like how you put it “We see them as firewood for God’s eternal bonfire of hell….”

    That pretty much sums up all “unsaved” people in their minds. Ever since we changed from trying to save everyone to knowing who humanity is in Christ, it makes the spreading of the gospel a whole lot easier (and fun) to do. It puts the “Good News” back into “Gospel”!

    Just keep up the good work here, I check it just about everyday!

    Boyd

  2. Jerome on

    A wonderful call to supernatural faith – the faith OF Jesus.

    I must admit to having ambivalent feelings my whole life as a Christian vis-a-vis “just war” and America’s enemies…

    I see the verse that says the king does not bear the sword in vain, etc., and I see the verse about loving our enemies. I guess I split that between national and personal response. I remember in Spokesman Club (for old WCG/GCI members!) how we would respond to a table topics question about some international challenge – it seemed that we always said something like: “Well, speaking from a carnal viewpoint, the US ought to bomb them out of existence!” It was as if prefacing our remark in that way covered us from having to shoulder the responsibility for bombing whoever out of existence, even though that is what we really wanted to see happen! At the same time, we were good conscientious objectors…

  3. Pastor Jonathan on

    Thanks for the comments guys! Jerome, I really resonate with the cognitive dissonance you describe in our thinking in WCG in the past.


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