Ten Questions on the Ten Year Anniversary of 9/11 by Pastor Mike Evans
1.Where were you on September 11, 2001?
I will never forget it. It was a Tuesday morning, my day off back then, and I was working on the front porch roof of our 117 year old house, stripping off four layers of shingles, when about ten minutes before nine Karla came to the bedroom window and told me what had happened. She explained that a jet airliner had flown directly into the north tower of the World Trade Center and it was on fire. I was stunned, but I didn’t even stop working. My mind was racing. Then, 17 minutes later at 9:03 another plane crashed into the south tower. Then again at 9:38 a plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. Is this the end I wondered to myself. So many questions. Later that afternoon as I was still working on the roof I looked up and Air Force One flew directly over our home with the President inside, headed to Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha. When all the dust had settled there were 3,182 people that died from the events of that day.
2. Where was God? God was omnipresent just as He always has been and always will be. God was still on His throne reigning perfectly in wisdom, power, and love. Psalm 115:3 says “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” 9/11 didn’t cause God any alarm whatsoever. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush He called him to be the deliverer for Israel from their 400 years of slavery to Pharaoah. God even told Moses the name of the Person who had given the orders so that he could tell the Israelites who had sent him: “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” “Tell them that ‘I AM’ has sent me to you.”” (Exodus 3:13ff.) Jesus said in Matthew 10:29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one falls to the ground apart from your Father.” God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
3. What difference did it make in the spiritual climate of the U.S.? In the short term there was an enormous spike in church attendance. One article suggested that fully half of the entire adult population in the U.S. attended a religious service the Sunday after 9/11. A massive but momentary surge of spirituality occurred as Americans were forced to come face to face with the fragility of life. Ed Young who is the pastor of Fellowship Church said “After 9/11 we had 20-some odd thousand people show up…..I was disappointed somewhat that more didn’t stick because we dropped to 16 or 17 thousand the next weekend and then the weekend after that to about 14,500,” he said. “By November things were pretty much back to normal in terms of church attendance.” C.H. Spurgeon used to speak of the “spiritual spasms” that people have in the face of tragedies. They come and then they are quickly gone.
4. What is the proper role of government in events such as this? Well, that’s a very good question and the Bible has a good answer. Romans 13:1ff. says “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” The U.S government has been a terror to terrorists these past ten years. There is a God-ordained role of the government which includes the U.S. military to defend ourselves from terrorists. By the latest count 6,137 Americans serving in the Armed Forces have lost their live since 9/11, nearly double the number of lives lost on that fateful day back in 2001. We are not to put our trust in horses or chariots or “smart bombs.” Our trust is to be in the name of the Lord our God. We must strive to maintain an attitude that is consistent with the Bible’s teaching in Romans 12 where Paul writes “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
5. How do we begin to make any sense from the ashes of 9/11? In Jesus’ day there was a tragic event that occurred where a tower collapsed in Siloam and killed 18 people. Luke 13:1-6 tells of this event. Jesus asked His audience “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” The point is this: We are all sinners in need of redemption in the presence of a holy God. The sheer scope of the human pain and suffering that occurred on 9/11 and the years following…is staggering. There have been far greater death tolls in earthquakes and tsunamis since 9/11…. 250,000 alone from the earthquake and ensuing tsunami that shook the Pacific Rim in 2004….but nothing has affected the collective psyche of Americans as this has done.
6. What difference did it make in my preaching or thinking? I found myself thinking how comforting it was to have my soul anchored to the immovable, unchanging, and indestructible God of the universe and what it must feel like not to have faith in such a God. So to that extent my preaching was informed by this reality. But my thinking about God, my theology did not change one iota. But it was a good gut check. Our family has had several of these kinds of gut-checks in recent years. Good theology works in fair and foul weather alike. The thing about truth is it’s always true, even when it appeared that the apocalypse was upon us
7. How has your attitude toward Muslims changed since September 11, 2001? The pastor of Grace church in suburban Atlanta (Buddy Hoffman) told his elders that they could make a choice. He said “We could view Muslims as the enemy, or the prize.” The “prize” of the Muslim world makes up more than 1.5 billion people in 3,358 people groups. Joshua Project’s list of the 20 least-reached people groups include 19 Muslim people groups. One family from our church is serving in the Arabian Peninsula in one such group. If you are a hater of Muslims as a whole your heart is not right before God. Muslims, as whole, are not the enemy, but even if they were a Christian response would be to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44). How this command is to be wedded alongside the government’s role of protecting its citizens is not easily answered.
8. Why are Evangelical Christians not being represented in the memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.? Tony Perkins is the President of the Family Research Council and he said that 3/4ths of Americans identify themselves as Christians with 1/3rd of that number claiming to be evangelical Christians. Others included in the program are a Buddhist nun, an Imam, a Hindu priest, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, a Muslim musician, an Anglican priest, but not a single evangelical Christian. Perkins goes on to say “It is historically inaccurate that in times of mourning that Americans pray to the Hindu God or the God of Islam…(rather) they pray to the Judeo-Christian God-and specifically Jesus Christ.
9. What have you done personally not to waste 9/11? For my part I attempted to bring a God-centered perspective to this tragedy…challenging my fellow local pastors to do the same. If your theology (which simply means the study of God..what you believe about God) is true, then it will always be true. I took advantage of the two Sundays following 9/11 to bring some perspective to this horrific event. The first message on Sunday Sep. 16, 2001, was titled “Safely Inside the Walls of Romans 8:28.” The next Sunday the title of the message was “Attack on America: What Would Jesus Do?”
10. What promise from God stands true forever:From the message I preached on September 16, 2001 titled “Safely Inside the Walls of Romans 8:28” I said “The magnificent promise of Romans 8:28 is a massive oak tree in a forest of little saplings. The God behind the promise is a Mighty Fortress in an uncertain and evil age. My friends, believe this promise! It is true! And when tragedy strikes or affects your life or family in any way your faith will yet remain. Why? Because your feet are firmly anchored in the God revealed in Scripture, a God who causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. May each of us live our lives this week and for the rest of our earthly days safely inside the fortress of Romans 8:28.” Amen.