“… I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3)
We may now be sufficiently removed from the crushing grief brought to mind by the anniversary of September 11, as well as distanced enough from the chest-thumping patriotism in response to that horror for us to consider what follows in this column.
There is nothing wrong with grieving. The Bible tells us to grieve when appropriate. Even Jesus wept. Patriotism also is not an evil when it exalts high principles that set us apart from the rest of the world.
Nevertheless, there may be some who will take exception with what you are about to read. In the U.S.A., we often adopt a sense of being God’s chosen people, as if somehow He owes Americans something He doesn’t owe others. The claim that God “owes” anything to anyone should be the first red flag.
Just to be clear, yours truly fully realizes the devastating evil our nation suffered that morning 15 years ago. This is not to excuse the perpetrators of their responsibility for those evil acts. They were the proximate cause.
Yours truly doesn’t regard Islam as just another path to understanding God. It is a false religion preached by a false prophet that worships a false god. There is nothing holy, or even respectable about that.
Certainly, you can find Muslims who don’t fit the stereotype. I suggest those Muslims are either lying (look up the Islamic concept of taqiya) or are simply not devout.
There is nothing good, let alone anything holy, that can come from belief in false religions, false prophets and false gods. As Jesus said, there is no middle ground. No neutrality.
“Whoever is not with me is against me…” (Luke 11:23)
Those who are not with Him, aren’t non-comital. They are God’s enemies. And Jesus didn’t waffle in describing where their loyalty lies.
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
So, don’t mistake the words that follow as endorsing what these evil, false-god worshippers did on 9-11.
But they didn’t attack Heaven. They attacked America. It would do us well to recognize the difference. Heaven is where believers’ sanctification will be completed to God’s glory, and to our eternal enjoyment. America is something quite short of that.
Some notable Christians caught hell, you might say, from the media and even from other Christians for suggesting in 2001 that 9-11 was God’s discipline for our nation’s sinful rejection of Him.
But those critics’ faulty reasoning leads to this kind of patriotism: my country right or wrong. It shouldn’t take a degree in theology to see the flaw in that. Right or wrong? Who among us would stand before God and explain that we committed what He deems to be wrong because we felt it was our patriotic duty?
What Christian could tell God that His truth doesn’t matter when it comes to our nation? If that isn’t absurd to you, I recommend you re-visit your Bible. You’ve missed its point.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20)
It was a similar nationalistic arrogance by God’s chosen in Judea and Israel 2,600 years ago when Assyria and Babylon invaded and destroyed their civilizations, then carted off the Jews as slaves. God’s people didn’t think they deserved it.
There was nothing holy about the godless Assyrians and Babylonians, and certainly nothing good about their slaughter and enslavement of God’s chosen people.
Except, there was this: It was God who sent those pagan barbarians to pillage and kill. Why? Because God’s own chosen people had repeatedly turned from Him, piling sin upon sin. They compounded their error by haughtily praising themselves. Self-righteous would be a more accurate description than patriotic. They were prideful, not humble.
Let’s stipulate that all Christians will agree to the previous paragraph’s truth. It is indisputable that while God is not the author of sin (murder and enslavement), He has allowed sinners to do such things to administer His judgment and even to discipline His own people.
God is patient, long-suffering, loving and gracious. But when it comes to life on earth, His grace is not without limit. Every believer should understand today why Judea and Israel were disciplined by God for their wayward ways, for exalting themselves and for rejecting His sovereignty over their lives.
Why is it so easy to see that cause and effect in history, yet so difficult to see it in our day?
Are we Americans holier than Israelites and Judeans? Does He somehow regard us more highly than those He called His “chosen?” Have we been more obedient or more faithful?
What do we have that exempts us from the consequences of our sins that ancient Jews didn’t possess?
If you say we have Jesus, please show where Jesus said, “Go and sin some more and be blessed.”
How much does God “owe” a nation that has murdered on average 1 million babies a year for nearly a half century out of convenience? How much more grace – meaning withholding of discipline – does a nation deserve for glorifying abominable sins of the flesh while persecuting believers who resist conforming? How many idols – wealth, power, false god worship, and yes, even love of country – should God permit to be exalted above Him before saying enough is enough?
It was Jesus Himself who reminded a previous lawless generation that God’s grace on earth is limited – as opposed to that grace we will enjoy eternally when He takes us home.
“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1–3)
Unless you repent, indeed.
None of us is exempt from God’s discipline for our sins.
It is by His grace that believers are saved eternally. But His grace in this lifetime has limits. Ask the ancient Judeans and Israelites. Ask Americans, post 9-11.
A lot of people today implore God to bless America. They beg Him to bless us. They sometimes nearly demand it.
But shouldn’t we get this right if we expect a different fate than Israel and Judea? Shouldn’t we be blessing God through obedience and faithfulness?
Shouldn’t we be less entitlement-minded and fall to our knees in repentance rather than presume to demand more of His limited earthbound grace in this lifetime?
This is not to say that believers can lose their salvation. But if you need examples of how believers who wander from The Way can suffer consequences in the here and now, 9-11 seems as good an example as ancient Israel and Judea.
Yours truly shares the grief most Americans feel for what happened 15 years ago. But there’s plenty of blame to go around. It isn’t limited to the godless evil-doers who hijacked jetliners. God permitted that to happen for a reason. This doesn’t blame the victims, as so often is the rejoinder. It blames those responsible. You and me and our neighbors.
It’s worth some serious self-reflection as individuals and as a society to understand what God might have been reacting to on 9-11.
As the Lord told the prophet: “For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome…they fly like an eagle swift to devour. They all come for violence, all their faces forward…O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.”
I’ll end this with two parting thoughts: God forgive us. America, bless God.
(This column is adapted from a Bible study written by Mark Landsbaum on 9-11 for family and friends)
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.