Terrorist Attacks Were Defining Moment for Christians
By Jeff Lukens
Prominent Christians have raised the possibility, to much ridicule, that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were God's punishment for the sin and immorality that have grown widespread in our country in recent years. While that day was a seminal moment for the entire nation, its remembrance is especially convicting for churchgoing Americans.
As Christians, perhaps we have accepted too much that does not align with our faith. In our quest for societal tolerance, we have seen God's Word glossed over so as not to offend people outside the church. What is embraced from the pulpit on Sunday too often seems to be ignored in public on Monday.
Similarly, Abraham Lincoln once asked whether the Civil War was "punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins." That war had indeed come because of slavery and, as Lincoln said, because America had "forgotten God."
But does God really want to punish us today for the moral decay in America?
To explore the issue fully requires an inquiry into the temperament of God Himself. While there are many Bible stories that illuminate His character, in this instance, we look to a life experience of Catherine Marshall, a well-known Christian author and wife of Peter Marshall, the noted cleric and Chaplin of the United States Senate in the 1940s.
In her book, Beyond Our Selves, she relates a story where she had been very ill and bedridden for a year and a half with Tuberculosis. In her desperation, she prayed and tried everything she humanly could to overcome the crippling effects of the disease, but her health showed no improvement.
Was God punishing her for some reason?
In a mood of helpless despair, she finally handed her fate over to God. It had been an agonizing decision. If He wanted her to be an invalid forever, so be it. Upon doing so, however, a comforting peace settled over her.
Catherine had been visiting her parent's at their home near Virginia Beach, Va. About 3:30 a.m. that same night, not knowing why, she awoke upright from a deep sleep into complete alertness. Her body tingled all over.
Then it happened. She was aware of a power, a personal presence in the room. In the darkness her eyes could see nothing, yet a new way of seeing became available to her.
She perceived the Being who stood at the right side of her bed. It was Christ Jesus Himself. He was smiling and looked kindly upon her as a child. She said there was in Him a curious combination of kingliness and tenderness.
His attitude was, "Why do you take yourself and your problems so seriously? Relax! There is nothing here I can't take care of." She realized He knew every detail of her life. "Go tell your mother," He said. And then He smiled again. "That's simple enough, isn't it?"
Her humanness immediately asserted itself. "Go and tell my mother . . . what?" She wanted to argue, "It's the middle of the night, what will mother think?" But she was aware of the mastery of the One who had spoken. He was standing there waiting, leaving her free to obey or disobey.
For a moment she wavered. "I'll do it, if it kills me," she finally said as she climbed out of bed. She sensed the gentle humor in His eyes as He quietly stood aside for her to pass.
She awoke her mother in the next room to tell her that she was going to be okay. When she returned to her bedroom, the vivid Presence was gone. That night had been a turning point in her battle with TB. From then onward, her health slowly but steadily improved, and to the amazement of her doctors, was completely healed within six months.
Though very few people will ever have an encounter of this nature, the story provides a good illustration of how Christians relate to their Redeemer. Jesus desires to personally reveal Himself to each of us, and He has given us the free will to accept or decline His offer.
It is matter of belief in what is not seen. While skeptics may say this belief defies analysis, no one can deny the remarkable recovery in Catherine Marshall's health.
Only by obediently accepting His redemption in our lives can we enter into a relationship and be blessed by Him. This helplessness before Him requires relinquishment of ego and self-will, and becomes a journey into trust and joy as we follow His call.
We obey the laws and moral norms of our country not because we are forced to, but because our faith compels us to. This is the spiritual underpinning that has bound Western civilization together for the past twenty centuries. Much of the unraveling of our society today surely has been caused by a rejection of the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our nation was founded.
While evil does not come from God, He allows it to exist. The terrorist attacks were acts of free choosing individuals operating in a permissive society. Since that day, hopefully, each of us has chosen to rearranged our priorities in ways where good can come from evil.
God doesn't seek to punish us, individually or as a country, but seeks to have a relationship with us. He could have sent judgment, but instead sent His Son in the most gracious demonstration of love ever known. "While we were still sinners," the Bible says, "Christ died for us." For believers, that love is a beacon of hope in a dangerous world.