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The day that changed the world ::

LUKE TATTERSALLreflects on the events of September 11th 2001
Source: Perspective Vo9 No2 © Perspective 2001

On Tuesday 11 September at 8:45 am New York time the world changed forever. A plane was intentionally flown into the World Trade Centre in New York by a group of terrorists. The ever increasing number of video cameras and the speed at which news travels these days means that most of the world had tuned in and was watching as a second plane ploughed into other tower of the World Trade Centre. The most unbelievable act of terrorism that the world has ever know was perpetrated against thousands of people arriving at work for what they thought would be just another Tuesday.

The images of that day will be hard to forget: 767’s flying into buildings, two of the largest buildings in the world being reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds. Weeks later thousands of people are still unaccounted for and there are still many tonnes of rubble to be moved.

What are we supposed to think about these events? How do you respond to the terrifying tragedy that happened in the United States? What does the Bible have to say about the events in New York? What is a Christian response to these events?

Revenge – How should the USA Respond?

One of the messages to come out of America soon after the tragedy was that they would take revenge. It was a message from the President. It was the message from the man-on-the-street. I heard one lady say that they should wipe out every person in the Middle East and leave it as a desert. When you hear that kind of revenge talk you can’t help but think of Lamech back in Genesis 4:

I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.. (Genesis 4:23-24)

Lamech is held up as an example of people trying to be God. He arrogantly boasts about the revenge he will take.

Most people like the idea of revenge. We have consumed a diet of Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarznegger films and feel that revenge is an entirely appropriate response when someone wrongs us.

But revenge is never a godly response:

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)

Punishment – Is it Wrong to Want Justice?

While revenge is certainly not a godly response I am sure that justice is. Those who have perpetrated such evil should be brought to justice. They should be punished for what they have done.

The Bible says that God has put the Presidents, Prime Ministers, parliaments and Kings in place for the wellbeing of our society; to punish those who do what is wrong (Rom 13:1-5; 1 Pet 2:13-14). It is right to want to see people brought to justice. Thousands of people were murdered. Those who committed this crime should be punished.

Judgement – Is it God Punishing the USA?

There are some who have suggested that these events should be seen as God’s punishment on the United States. But do you remember what Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 13 about some of the tragedies that had happened in his day?

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)

I don’t think there is any reason to think that the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were in some way God’s judgement on the United States.

But as Jesus says, we should be reminded when we see those tragedies that the day is coming when God will judge the whole world. And people need to be encouraged to repent before that day comes.

Islam – The Enemy of Christianity?

It is tempting to think that this act of terrorism was an assault on Christianity. Many Americans are viewing it that way. Some of the comments from Osama bin Laden have been along those lines as well.

But I think it is a mistake to see these events in purely religious terms. Much of the Muslim world has condemned the terrorism. Religion is often simply the cover under which people’s hatred is disguised. We only need to think about the events in Northern Ireland to see that.

There can be no doubt that the message of Islam is clearly in opposition to that of Christianity. They do deny the person and work of Jesus Christ. They deny that he was God in the flesh. They deny that he died and rose again from the dead. They deny that he is the only way to be saved. But saying that Islam denies those things shouldn’t surprise us. Most of the world chooses to deny those things.

Islam is clearly in opposition to Christianity. Muslim countries are often vigorous in their suppression of Christianity (North Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc). But it shouldn’t be feared any more than Hinduism, Buddhism, materialism, hedonism, or anything else that leads people away from trusting in Jesus. While Islam may sometimes be more vocal in its opposition to Christianity, I am sure that more Australians are hindered from believing the Gospel because of materialism and apathy than by Islam.

The Future – What Happens From Here?

As a result of the events in the United States of America, many people are fearful about the future – fearful about what the United States might do, fearful about war escalating across the world. People who grew up during the Second World War have expressed fear that this could be the beginning of the Third World War. These events serve as a clear reminder that we live in a less than perfect world. We live in a world that doesn’t share God’s values. We live in a world that is not how God intended it to be.

President Bush made the rather outlandish statement that in light of this act of terrorism the United States was going to “rid the world of evil”. While most people would be able to endorse the sentiment, there is arrogance in that kind of statement that is hard to believe. As powerful as the United States may think they are, they will never be able to “rid the world of evil”. Nor do they have the mandate to determine who or what is evil.

But the day will come when God will punish all the “evil”. He has set the day when he will judge the world with justice. He has set the day when Jesus will return. That is when God will rid the world of evil. That is when God will punish those who deserve to be punished.

But let’s be very clear. The basis for the judgement will not be your innocence or guilt when it comes to terrorism. The basis for the judgement will be your acceptance or rejection of Jesus:

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thess 1:8)

The basis for the judgment will be whether or not you know God personally through his Son, Jesus.

Luke Tattersall is the pastor of the Parramatta City Presbyterian Church, Sydney.

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