I will never forget standing in the Kennesaw Mountain High School cafeteria the morning of September 11, 2001. I turned to see my pastor, Mike Linch, walking toward me as if he were late for a meeting. I had arrived early to teach character education to Cobb County high school students. Mike began to tell us how a plane had hit one of the twin towers in Manhattan; we all went to the school office to watch a television monitor as another plane hit the other twin tower. The groans and audible anguish filled the school office as everyone watched the events in real time. At first, there was silence; then, there were horrified responses of panic and despair.
Those of us at the school to teach character education were asked to go to our classrooms and were given permission to turn the television on with the students. I spent the morning with high school students, watching as the towers crumbled and life as we knew it was transformed before our eyes. We talked, cried and comforted one another. Adolescent problems didn’t matter in light of what we observed on that morning.
That morning was significant in shaping my calling to plant a new church. It galvanized my motivation to take the gospel to the unchurched and those far from God. I was challenged to view the events of 9/11 through the lens of the Great Commission. I couldn’t help but wonder what the eternal destination would be for over 3000 people that perished on that day.
It is normal and understandable to be horrified, angry and experience a gamut of emotions in the middle of all the circumstances surrounding the attacks of 9/11. We experienced loss and grief as a nation. Our security was challenged and we felt backed into a corner. As the dust settled, the natural and human response became vengeance. I completely supported the leadership of our nation based on scripture in Romans 13, but I believe strongly the Body of Christ has a Biblical mandate that is distinct from the State Government. I think of the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5:43–45 (HCSB)
43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
On Sunday morning September 11, 2011 at Church at the Grove, we will be celebrating 5 years as a church. We will celebrate the many decisions of individuals who have turned to follow Jesus and the many baptisms that have taken place as a result. In the midst of this celebration, we will pause, pray and reflect on those life-changing events of 10 years ago. Our challenge that day will be simple: The hope of change in this world is not revenge, bombs, bullets or even the ballot box. The hope of this world is taking the Gospel to all people, groups and nations.
We must not allow the contemporary clash of cultures to distract us from fulfilling the timeless mandate of the Great Commission! Maybe our focus of the Gospel should be toward those that consider us among their greatest enemies.
Matthew 28:18–20 (HCSB)
18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”