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Reflections on 9/11

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 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.” (Luke 13:1-5)

It was a morning, very much like this morning as I type, when the towers fell.


Bright blue sky, soft air and we all awoke unsuspecting of the horror to come on that Tuesday. Almost three thousand souls also awoke that morning not knowing this would be their last on this earth. A fortunate few would have the opportunity to say their good-byes, to express the true conditions and feelings of the heart that they had for those most dear. Most did not have the chance for last things. For the survivors, many would gladly shave years off this earthly existence to take a few minutes to express their most heart-felt, their deepest feelings of love for their family members and friends who perished that terrible day. I can say unequivocally, that only those who have lost a loved-one suddenly, unexpectedly, can fully grasp that longing for closure that is denied.


These events were terrible beyond belief: the slaughter of men, women and children by Islamic fundamentalists who deem all of those outside of their religion as valid targets of their religious-based hatred. It must be understood that in many ways this was an act of religious intolerance, of hatred against Christians and Jews. As much as it is currently deemed politically correct to gloss over this, the truth cannot be denied. Western Christians and Jews were a target of this terrorist act. It is estimated that as many as two hundred thousand Christians are slain for their faith every year. This is a fact that is also ignored by the media. But my comments here are an aside and not my main focus.


Rather than talk about the hatred that spawned these attacks our focus here is placing these events in a proper perspective for us who survive. The question we ask is what does September 11, 2001 mean for us today?


In recent years the big religious question was, “What would Jesus do?” Perhaps we could morph that to, as we regard 9/11, “What would Jesus say?”


From the onset let me urge caution, for others and for myself. The unfortunate human tendency when terrible events occur is to want to figure out just what God means in all of this.  People say, in these times, very stupid things. When my son died in 1989 one person opined that it was so I would now go to seminary; the individual later apologized for that but it was asinine nonetheless.


When 9/11 happened we had televangelist blame the events on the wickedness of America. Not to say there is not wickedness in America but if you follow that logic similar events would have happened all over the globe at that same time. Sin and wickedness seems to be a pervasive, global problem. For example, if the tipping events were Godlessness and some sexual sins logically speaking buildings in China should have come down too because doubtless these issues exist in that Communist nation, or North Korea or anywhere else you choose.


So, speaking for myself, I do not know the ‘why’ of 9/11 on a cosmic scale. We know no more than Job did of the reasons behind his calamity. That being said, there is biblical truth that does apply as we consider the events of that day.


That biblical truth is found in the gospels, in particular Luke 13. Now please keep an open mind here as we dig here. The set up is that Jesus is asked questions about a terrible event that occurred in his day which was a brutal police action by the Romans that left religious observers dead.


This is just the same as all the questions posed to pastors in the days after 9/11, “What do all of these events mean; what is your take on it Jesus?” If the crowd was looking for Jesus to start an insurrection against the Romans they were caught by surprise.


Jesus asks a rhetorical question. “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?”




Then Jesus goes on to say, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”


It seems that, if the crowd was looking for tea and sympathy from Jesus they got far more than they bargained for. On the face of it, Jesus’ response seems callous, unsympathetic and harsh. Keep in mind too that the unspoken assumption of the Jews at that time was that you got what you deserved so these people some how had it coming to them to die by the hands of the Romans. To mix religions they somehow believed it was karma. Saw a ditty the other day that sums up the concept: Dear Icebergs, have just heard about global warming. Karma sure is a bear, isn’t it? Sincerely, H.R.M.S. Titanic.


Jesus makes the point that the people who died in this riot did no more deserve their fate then those who had the tower fall on them at Siloam. They were no more deserving of their deaths than the crowd following Jesus. The victims of 9/11, humanly speaking did not deserve their fate. To be sure, we are all sinners and the wages of sin is death but these people were no better or worse than you or I on the average. Jesus is saying essentially the same thing about the riot victims and those who died at Siloam.  Rather, he pushes the issue back on the audience by telling them that they need to repent or they will perish. So the issue is not, “why did this happen?” The issue is, that the state of my eternal soul is more important than trying to figure out why bad people do bad things to relatively good people.


In other words: Jesus was asking are you ready to die? Have you answered the question that has eternal significance? Or put another way, the billboards that used to dot the landscape of the south are not off the mark: Prepare to Meet Thy God.


What Jesus is saying is hard. Hard truth, but absolutely vital truth in our day for us to hear. Oh, we do not like hard truth in this 21st century. Indeed the words of Paul to Timothy, as far as we know the last he ever wrote, apply:

“The time is coming when people won’t listen to good teaching. Instead, they will look for teachers who will please them by telling them only what they are itching to hear. They will turn from the truth and eagerly listen to senseless stories.” (2Timothy 4: 3, 4 CEV) Jesus does not say what is easy, or pleasing when he answers their questions; he confronts them with hard necessary truth. That truth is that we must repent of our sin; we must turn the other direction from ourselves toward Christ because we all, if the Lord does tarry, die.


Jesus is attempting to focus the attention of his audience here that, more important than understanding the reasons behind current events, they in fact need to “…make your calling and election sure.” (2 Peter 1:10).  He is taking our attention from this transitory life to the eternal next. In other words, we must be prepared to stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). We must make sure that we have trusted Christ as our only salvation from our sin; the consequences are eternal one way or the other.


These words may seem harsh and unfeeling but this life is short and eternity is for, well, forever. Paul told the people of Athens when he preached to them that they needed to repent because God had appointed a day where he require it (Acts 17: 22-31) Please see verses 30 and 31, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”


“Is this all there is?” you may ask. Are we concerned for heaven only at the exclusion of doing our part to bring God’s kingdom here on earth? By no means! We must be what we all are called to be: Christians. His life must pervade our lives. There is work to be done on the practical level as God has only us for hands and feet on this globe and we must be faithful to do His good work. But that critical message we work to share as we meet people where they are physically, emotionally and spiritually is that the things that are seen are temporal. Help meet those temporal needs. Feed the hungry, help the poor, bind up the broken-hearted but share the good news that our most urgent need, our soul need has a remedy in Christ.


The clear message of 9/11 is that we must not take tomorrow for granted.


Today is the day to live life in as much joy and happiness as God permits.


Today is the day to thank Him for this beautiful creation and His great creative love.


Today is the day to think of friends and loved ones to cherish them and keep short accounts. Today is the day to let them know they are loved.


Today is the day to hug your siblings or children or parents or friends. Today is the day to kiss your spouse and let them know of your love. Today is the day to turn to Christ in repentance and faith.




For more tomorrow may not come for you on this side of the curtain.


During the next several days there will be a great deal spoken about 9/11 that is so much religious cotton-candy. The clarion call that should be made is for us, is to affirm that we have confessed Christ as Savior and Lord.  While people’s focus is automatically moved towards thoughts of death and eternity we do them no real kindness by ignoring the most crucial of issues. Right now our ears may itch for comfort but we need hard truth. We need spiritual medicine that will cure our souls.



Copyright © 2011 Brian Bailey, Author