Much of the world is remembering 9/11. Unquestionably that event, and particularly what we have chosen to remember about it, colors our thinking and perception of things. No doubt we’ve all learned some things from that day ten years ago and all of the days that have followed it. Those lessons may or may not be the right lessons to have learned, but we all surely claim to have learned something from 9/11 and that learning has affected our living ever since.
I want to hold up before you a memory, a living memory. I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned, and am still learning, as the events of 9/11 have interfaced with him whom I follow, our Lord Jesus Christ. For by far the dominant memory that is to shape our thinking as Christ-followers is not the destruction of two towers, but the raising up of the Christ on a cross. Not the rejuvenation of a site of destruction, but the resurrection of the Son of God from the grave. If we are remember anything or anyone at all as Christians, we’re to remember Jesus Christ.
Think about what I’m saying; the Lord will give you understanding about everything. Remember Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead and descended from David. This is my good news. (2 Timothy 2:7-8 CEB)
As I remember Jesus Christ – the Christ of Scripture, not of emotion or tradition – these are some of the things that come to mind as I simultaneously my Lord and 9/11.
I remember Jesus Christ saw his Father as his source of strength. He said, “I honor my Father.” (John 8:49). This is what his life was all about: honoring the one from whom his strength flowed. The Father was his sustenance and the source of all nourishment to be shared, and is still shared, with us. “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32). Now not everyone sees life, or their life in particular, this way. Most appear to see God and his strength as one among many sources of strength available to them. Some leave God out of the equation altogether. But as worshipers of the true and living God, we’re called to see things differently than the masses. “Some people trust in chariots, others in horses; but we praise the LORD’s name.” (Psalm 20:7)
I remember Jesus Christ lived his life completely free of resentment, slander, and violence. It might be impossible for us to do so completely, but it is our supreme task in life to imitate Jesus Christ as closely as possible. When we’re tempted to lean toward resentment, slander, or violence as ways to handle, or even as solutions to, life’s complexities, we as Christians see those things for what they are – temptations from hell – and so we take our stand against those temptations. This is what our Savior did and he is our Lord. I remember he said, “Don’t you think I’m able to ask my Father for more than twelve legions of angels right now?” (Matthew 26:53). And he could have … but he didn’t. When the suggestion of taking up arms was proposed to him, I remember how he looked the person making the suggestion – ironically, a very close disciple of his – right in the eye and flatly said, “Enough of that!” (Luke 22:38) Yes, when I remember 9/11 and view it through the lens of Jesus Christ, I can come to no other conclusion than this one: resentment, slander, and violence have no place in the lives of disciples of Christ.
I remember Jesus Christ wept with those who wept. I remember “Jesus wept” with, and for, those who grieved the death of a loved one, one also loved deeply by Jesus himself (John 11:35). I remember how on one occasion, as if with exasperation and a groan in spirit, he looked “into heaven and sighed deeply.” (Mark 7:34). We know that sort of sigh. We’ve sighed it ourselves when we’ve looked toward heaven and thought, “It’s just shouldn’t be this way. How long, O Lord, how long?” We weep with those who weep. Not merely for “the Americans” who lost their lives one day in the Twin Towers, but quite deliberately for the hundreds from fifty-five other nations who lost their lives as well that same day in the same place. We weep not only for the thousands of American troops who have lost their lives in the wars spawned from the events surrounding 9/11, and the tens of thousands more who have been maimed for life or their lives ruptured and their families fractured forever, but weep also for the hundreds of thousands more who, civilians and enemies alike, have been suffered the same, or worse, and are remembered by many as only so much “collateral damage” or a “victory.” No, when true Christians weep, they weep not for our nation alone, but for the world, and with our Lord who weeps no other way.
I remember Jesus Christ praised good in whoever he saw it. It mattered not their ethnic. It mattered not their language. It mattered not their nationality. It mattered not their religion, past or present. I remember how he looked at one, not of Israel, and declared for all to hear, “I haven’t found faith like this in Israel!” (Luke 7:9) If we praise only those who are like us, how are we better than the pagans? We must mimic our Master and do likewise. We must not dole out our praise of good to only those who are most like us. We must swim against the strong, continual current of partiality and hate that envelopes the lives of so many and, instead, live lives of impartiality and love.
I remember Jesus Christ loved all, including his enemies. I shudder to say this. I’m fearful to say it, but say it I feel I must. Some of my most horrific memories surrounding 9/11 and since don’t involve people leaping from a hundred stories up lest they burn to death. They aren’t about workers sifting through and breathing the ashes of those incinerated in the flames to try and find one yet alive. They don’t revolve around encounters with those who are still struggling daily with nightmares in their sleep from terrors they experienced on the battlefield years ago. Rather, they center on hate-filled words and vengeful anger from the lips of my brothers and sisters in Christ – yes, even from some of you – about “those people.” They turn on e-mail forwards which spouted horrendous declarations not at all like the Spirit of Christ, but all in the name of the red, white, and blue. Lord Jesus, forgive us! Would that I could banish these memories from my mind forever! Perhaps someday I’ll be able to do so, but may I sooner die than forget how my Lord’s own battered, bruised, and bleeding lips spoke from the stake, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34) Lord, make me and mine like you.
I remember Jesus Christ laid down his life for everyone. I remember how he didn’t just talk about love, but that he walked all his days exemplifying God’s love. His life was pure witness to his true words and his death undeniably sealed the testimony. I remember how he said, “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) And he did. And his “friends” were all … including his betrayer, Judas. And so I recall how that if anyone will hear God’s call through my life, it will surely only be when my life matches my Lord’s words and ways. It will only be when I lay down my own life as he did with his. I ask you as I ask myself: how else will the Prince of Peace who spoke and lived the gospel of peace, work peace through you and me unless we too are deliberate, diligent peacemakers, laying down our lives daily for all to the end that his peace would come? This I remember.
But most of all I remember Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, that he rules from heaven now, and that he will return. I remember the greatest of the good news of Jesus Christ. “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) And indelibly stamped on my memory are his words, “I will return.” (John 14:3) Yes, this I remember; him, I remember.
My brothers and sisters. Friends and family. Neighbors and guests. Strangers and aliens. Citizens and foreigners. Church. Remember. Remember vividly. Remember demonstrably. “Remember Jesus Christ …”