September 11 is the 10th anniversary of the worst attack on American soil by foreign combatants. Most everyone reading this article can remember exactly what you were doing at that moment. I was about to preach in chapel at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. We prayed and Dr. Mohler felt that I should preach. The attacks continued during our chapel service. It was one of the most surreal days of my life.
All air traffic was grounded. There was one car at the airport available for rental. I got it and began my trek back to Texas. Along the way I saw lines at gas stations and price gouging. Fear and uncertainty gripped the entire nation.
The next Sunday I preached at First Baptist Church of Madisonville. There was standing room only. People literally lined the walls. The altars were full. Many thought this could be a spiritual awakening for America. Sadly, within a few short weeks the crowds in almost all churches returned to pre-9/11 attendance. Most people went on with their lives in a new normal.
Ten years later, how do we commemorate such an event like 9/11? There are some obvious answers.
- Pray for the families who lost loved ones. Estimates place the total losses at 2,753 innocents who were killed. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, all from many walks of life were represented in the number. Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, other religions, and no religion died that day. People are still grieving. Pray for God to fill the hole in lives that remain with His grace.
- Honor the memory of the brave who ran to danger. Public service personnel who died trying to combat evil and alleviate suffering totaled 479. My dad and his brother were firefighters. Growing up in a firefighter’s home being surrounded by firefighters most of my early life causes me to have a lump in my throat for EMS, police and firefighters who give their lives to save the lives of others. They were the heroes that day.
- Be careful about blaming a people group for the atrocity. Mark Stroman, 41, of Texas, was executed July 20 for killing two men he mistook for Arabs. Stroman said he wanted to kill Arabs to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Only extremists like Stroman take violent action, but many Christians harbor ill feelings toward Middle-Easterners and Muslims. Our hearts must go out to all people, especially those bound and blinded in a way of life that keeps them from knowing God’s love and forgiveness.
- Respect the government’s role in defending our nation. I salute our military. I pray virtually every day that our armed service personnel would come home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever our stance on government foreign policy, it is important for us to realize the role of the brave service personnel defending our country. Without them we will lose our freedom. It is trendy among a small but vocal minority of preachers to eliminate patriotism from a Christian context. Paul said he was a citizen of heaven. He unapologetically declared he was a citizen of Rome too. We have the liberty to preach the gospel and reach the nations because we live in the land of the free and home of the brave.
- Do all we can to win all we can to Jesus Christ. “Do-gooders” and “One-worlders” think we can usher in a tranquil global society. Their theory is given enough money, time and education, all of the problems of inequity will be solved. This is simplistic humanism. If all we needed for world peace was a perfect environment, then we would still be in the Garden of Eden. The only hope for individuals and nations is Jesus Christ.
It is difficult to commemorate a horrific day like 9/11. I want to make September 11, 2011 meaningful. Here is my pledge:
- I will show love to my family.
- I will cherish the memory of those who are gone that set an example for me.
- I seek to harbor no ill will toward any person, especially of another race or religion.
- I will participate in my government and support those who defend our freedom.
- I will tell someone about Jesus, who is the only hope for all humankind.