An Open Letter to all God’s People on this the 10th Anniversary of 9/11:


Decades ago, Shoah survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Weisenthal wrote a little book entitled: The Sunflower. In this little work of genius he related a story which had occurred during the last days of that horrific war against humanity. He was taken from a work detail and asked to oversee the medication of a dying SS officer. Through a fog of pain and medication the young man confessed to an atrocity of the first order and then asked for Simon’s forgiveness for his actions. Simon fled the scene and later from the comfort of his new life outside captivity, he sought guidance for what response he should have offered. This little piece of story has captured the imaginations of the many who have sought to understand evil, and our responsibilities towards it, and its victims (innocent or otherwise). This is because for the generation who fought and suffered Hitler, and the succeeding generations, Hitler and his final solution should as the ultimate example of evil run amok in an evil world.

Though it pales in comparison, there are many in America today which view the actions of a few brazen and utterly evil men who piloted four jets into oblivion on the morning of 9/11/2001 in a similar light. So I purpose a similar challenge on this the 10th anniversary of such an unnecessary carnage. Imagine if you will that one of these pilots survived, and laid dying in a room somewhere. Consider for a moment being swept into such a room before the blinking of hospital lights, and the mechanical roar of life-saving equipment, and other assorted medications. Hear the confession of one of these men, and consider his request for forgiveness. Could you do it? Could you say words of forgiveness, or would you cuss and squirm? Would you flee the room, and take hold of his hand?

 

Now consider the words of another man who came face-to-face with all the evils this world has to offer. Nestle up close as he speaks from his place on the mountain saying:

“”You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”[1]

Shrink back or pull forward as he continues:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?”[2]

Consider further the words of one man who attempted to murder and destroy those who followed this strange man speaking unintelligible words of love:

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”[3]

What strange requests in our world of violence and hate: when hit, do not hit back, turn the other cheek; pray for your enemies and seek their welfare; die for the useless, the broken, the tormented, and the one doing the very killing. With these words ringing in our ears, and the images of the daily news playing about our eyes, I place a horrible burden upon you this day. When you see a Muslim woman standing upon the street in her hajib, please pray for her. When you hear reports of rioting, death, and destruction in the streets, drip to your knees and please pray for them. When you see images of that day, rather than curse and moan, please join with the prayer of our Lord and Savior as he hung upon that bloody cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”[4]

You may ask, “why?” Why pray for those, for them, for that people in those places? I have, but one answer. It lies in the words that many of us learned way back in Sunday School, or may have seen waving in a crowded stadium after a big play: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” [5] The dirty little secret is this: Christ died for the men who crashed planes into buildings packed with thousands of people. Christ loved these men, and perhaps even still loves them, today, ten years later (how we count time anyway). Rethink the cliché, if these were the only men in existence, Christ would have still died to save even them. It is unfortunate that this warped and desperate world destroyed these men, every bit as much as they destroyed the lives of thousands, but the fact remains, Almighty God, the Father, who made and causes everything we see, taste, touch, and hear to exist now and forever, who holds all of this in his hands, who owns all of this, the one who is compassionate and merciful, who stands as the One, true God loves the Muslim community, the Jewish community, and the Christian community with a love that surpasses all the hate and violence of our petty world. He loves all of us. He holds himself out, and offers himself to each and every one of us. If this is our God, if this is how he comports himself, if is how he reveals himself to each of our communities; then how can we go on hating, killing, maiming, and marauding. There was another man who reflected on these facts and uttered a singular phrase, “an eye for an eye and the world will go blind.”[6] I ask you, I plead with you, I implore you, on this day set your mind and resolve in your heart to stop the blindness and seek to forgive, yes even men who throw planes at towers. Maybe then and only then will such futile acts of such angry and desperate men will not be thought necessary.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       AMEN.


[1] Matthew 5:38-42, NRSV.

[2] Matthew 5:42-47, NRSV.

[3] Romans 5:6-11, NKJV.

[4] Luke 23:34, NKJV.

[5] John 3:16, Message.

[6]  M. Gandhi

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