–November of 2001
Triumphing Over Tragedy
America has been awakened from decades of secure slumber by a terrorist nightmare of monumental proportions. In a series of murderous assaults, our sense of territorial invulnerability has been shattered, our economy shaken to its heels, and our carefree way of life halted in its tracks. The American psyche was clearly rattled on September 11, 2001.
Our response to this national horror has been interesting. Rescue workers became heroes in swift succession as they braved the burning buildings only to be entombed with those they sought to save. Congressional leaders closed ranks, made speeches, and allocated funds to relieve the victims and to capture the attackers. The talking heads in the media marshaled the experts and discussed everything from Islamic fanaticism to World War III. The average American, however, went to his knees in prayer, stood in line to give blood, and opened both his heart and his purse to thousands of widows and orphans.
My greatest disappointment came from the religious media personalities. They blamed every segment of sinner it was safe to blame (though Scripture says judgment must begin at the house of God), predicted the end of time, and offered specials on their latest prophecy book. These are the same religious leaders who promised dire consequences for the world just because our calendar was changing was from 1999 to 2000. In their haste to capitalize on another “ministry opportunity” they stooped once again to interpreting the Bible through the newspaper, instead of interpreting the newspaper through the Bible.
A very bright spot for me came from two things that our President did. First, he led America to the place of prayer. Second, he stood atop the rubble of the World Trade Center and announced to the world that America’s soul had not been torn asunder for it rested on something far more permanent than concrete and steel. He reminded all of us that terrorists may destroy our infrastructure, but they could never damage our spirit. I don’t believe our President was grand standing. He was simply voicing his core beliefs.
President Bush offered the church a great object lesson as he stood atop that pile of rubble. During times of crisis the church must possess and project a discerning faith that looks beyond the fleeting shadow of the moment to the abiding substance of eternity; beyond things shaken to the things that are unshakable. Jesus told His church not to fear anyone or anything that could destroy the body (the passing), but fear Him that could destroy both body and soul (the permanent).
The men of this world despair when buildings topple, bodies are broken, and lives are snuffed out. But the child of God stands amid the encircling gloom of a desperately troubled day, lifts his eyes to Heaven, and remembers “this world passeth away but He that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
In times of tragedy the greatest responsibility that the church may have is simply to live up to its greatest convictions and beliefs. Oh yes, we must be there offering our hands to dig through the debris. We must be there offering our hearts to comfort those that mourn. We must be there giving of our means to provide shelter and food for those who are needy. But, we must also be there standing atop the broken dreams of this present world letting our faith point the way to the only world that really lasts.