Today marks the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001, and I’m beginning to suspect that it’s the most significant September 11 since the towers fell on that horrible day.
It is significant because this year the national dialog has turned to the question of how we should respond to our Muslim neighbors in light of those attacks, and I believe that the ways in which we answer that question will determine whether we allow September 11 to turn us into people of hate or people of peace.
I’ve already expressed my conviction that those of us who follow Jesus are compelled to love our Muslim neighbors unconditionally. (That post was the most read—and most shared—post in this blog’s three-year history, by the way; an encouraging fact!) And today my friend Sarah Cunningham has asked that her fellow bloggers join her in issuing a message of goodwill on behalf of the Church.
Sarah spent two weeks at Ground Zero right after the attacks of September 11 and describes the experience in her book, Picking Dandelions: Discovering Eden Among Life’s Weeds. (Zondervan is giving away the full electronic version of the book next week.)
That Sarah has called for forgiveness and reconciliation in spite of what she saw in New York really speaks to the transformative power of the cross. I know that the message of enemy-love strikes those who are suffering as complete foolishness, but to those who have forgiven, it is a gift of liberation and life.
I want to share some of those messages today, inviting you to add your own in the comment section.
From Sarah Cunningham:
Regardless of our personal political beliefs or the outcome of this scenario, Jesus did not come as a political revolutionary but as one bearing a message of transcendent spiritual truth. Part of his example, although unconventional and unpopular in the wider pop-culture, was a mandate to “love our neighbors,” to “love our enemies,” and to “pray for those who persecute us.” No matter how you view these Muslims, I am certain that at least one of these apply. The Christian faith maintains that God loves and wants relationship with every person on every side of this argument.
From Janet Oberholtzer:
Songs, books, presidents, clergy and more have all promised to never forget. And I agree, we should never forget. The lives loss. The lives affected. The injured. The terror. But in the process of never forgetting, do we need to be unkind? Or unloving? Or do things that incite others? I don’t see exception clauses in Jesus’ words about loving our enemies and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
As I think about never forgetting, I think back on my own journey of learning to love my neighbors, which meant first loving myself. And I realize how much more I have to learn about loving others, whether they be friends or enemies. Jesus also said that the world will know his followers by their love. So spreading love could honor the lives loss while fulfilling his words and bringing a whole new meaning to never forget.
From Travis Mamone:
I still believe that the Church should follow Jesus' example, and respond to violence and hatred with peace and love. When our Muslim neighbors see the Church do such horrible things, they don't see us extending an open hand to come to our churches--they see a middle finger instead. We must see our Muslim neighbors the way Jesus sees them: not as "the enemy" or "the other," but as human beings. In the Kingdom of God there is no "us" and "them;" there is only "us."
From Jason Boyett:
Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Pray for your persecutors.
All of those options are about love, grace and healing. I'm enough of a realist to know that such lofty concepts aren't always possible among humans -- especially humans operating within a complex world of hatred and distrust -- but that doesn't mean they can't be something we strive for.
And that doesn't mean they can't be attitudes I try to adopt today, in remembrance, as a Christian. As a father. As an example to the little girl with the coloring book and the impossibly blond hair, for whom I grieved on September 11, 2001, as I took note of the world she'd be growing up in.
There is a tragic disconnect from the way of Jesus when Christians join the chorus of those saying, “We will respect your faith when you respect ours” or “You can build a mosque in New York when we can build a church at Mecca.” Jesus did not teach us to be good to those who are good to us and tolerant of those who are tolerant of us. As he pointed out, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”
What makes us different is that we love when we’re not supposed to. We love unconditionally.