Our reaction is that we must stop such vile sin. But to stop sin, one must change the heart's—all of our hearts'—tendency to think selfishly. We must quench the unregulated, lawless quest for power and control that spurred such an act. We must quell the hatred that turns people into pawns in the quest for political statements. We must refute the arguments and acts that contend that some people are really not people at all so it does not matter what I do with them or to them. We must calm the anger that causes me to turn my neighbor into an enemy, to turn one made in the image of God into an object of hate. We must acknowledge the standards of decency that God created as a potential within us all, a potential that is there until hatred and the blindness that accompanies sin extract it. Those who undertook this mission had been taught since childhood to hate. So hate they did. That is the world we live in. On Tuesday we saw its darkness explode in living color.
An event like this also gives pause. We see our frailty. That is not a bad thing. No amount of machismo can overcome our inherent mortality and frailty. Events like this also have the potential to show what people are capable of being, what God has created them to be—if we will only turn with a new resolve of a fresh direction before God. After the attack, I also saw something else I do not normally hear enough of in our public discourse. I saw people praying, people humbled, and people seriously, not casually, invoking the help of God. When you fly into a dark hole, the one thing most wanted is a glimpse of light. Other instincts also rooted deeply in us come alive, even though they have often been left dormant for years. Times of encounter with reality starkly set before us tend to perform such inner surgery. It is time for us to rediscover that we live our lives before a Creator God and encourage its nurture.
Here in the war against terrorism, which is really a war of the heart and its allegiances, the destructiveness of hatred meets another way. It is the way of loving one's neighbor. My faith calls on me to love God completely and love my neighbor as myself. New Yorkers, long notorious for not caring and being cold, gave of themselves and risked their lives to help their neighbor. In that rubble, what mattered was not one's ethnicity, but that there was human suffering and need that cried out for another outstretched hand. Around the country, people gave blood to help pump life back into our bleeding, global soul. Once the monument of steel had crumbled, the steel of human hearts touched by pain and properly invoking the divine served with caring hands. We need more of this in our world.
We cannot guarantee that terrorists always will be quelled. Unchecked hatred finds ways to impose itself on our world, but may it be only for a moment's flash. If we fight the harder battle of the human heart laid naked before God, we may emerge from the dark hole. Maybe we will see that in this tragic carnage that more than sin is alive and well on Planet Earth. May be we will find that hope and God are alive and well and discover more of what really matters about ourselves in the process.
Darrell L. Bock is Research Professor of New Testament Studies and Professor of Spiritual Development and Culture at Dallas Theological Seminary
Copyright © 2001 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Christianity Today's other articles on the attacks include:
Christians Provide Comfort in the Shadow of Calamity | Still "stunned and reeling," New Yorkers seek support at prayer service. (Sept. 13, 2001)
Shaken Christians Turn to Prayer | Impromptu services usher in the bereaved by word of mouth, road signs, and e-mail. (Sept. 13, 2001)
Illinois Pastor on Fatal Flight | Jeffrey Mladenik, 43, was involved in workplace ministry, international adoption. (Sept. 13, 2001)
Communication Troubles Challenge U.S. Church Relief Agencies | Aid work continues amid atmosphere of shock, fear, and sporatic harrassment. (Sept. 13, 2001)
Reflections on Suffering | Classic and contemporary quotations for dark times. (Sept. 13, 2001)
In the Belly of the Beast | Christians, calling terrorist attack "satanically brilliant," minister at epicenter of World Trade disaster. (Sept. 12, 2001)
Churches, Agencies Respond to Attacks | Leaders call for prayer, justice, and mercy. (Sept. 12, 2001)
Muslims Fear a Backlash | No matter who is responsible, observers feel a reaction will still be present. (Sept. 12, 2001)
A Wake-Up Call to Become Global Christians | The deadly attacks on America will provoke many responses, but Christians are commanded to love our neighbors. (Sept. 12, 2001)
Nation's Religious Leaders Urge Calm, Pray for Peace | Churches will maintain prayer vigils for victims and leaders. (Sept. 11, 2001)
Church Leaders Around World Deplore 'Unspeakable Horror' of Attack | Christians urged to unite in prayer as they unite in shock and denunciation. (Sept. 11, 2001)
Experts Say Spiritual Roots Will Aid in Coping With Catastrophe | Pray and connect with others, advise nation's chaplains. (Sept. 11, 2001)
Fear and Hate | In times like this, as in all other times, Christians have a responsibility to love above all else. (Sept. 11, 2001)
God's Message in the Language of Events | In the face of evil, we must focus on keeping our hearts right. (Sept. 11, 2001)
Yahoo has also compiled aid organization contact information, closure notification, and survivor lists.
The Text This Week, a resource for pastors, has collected sermons and reflections in response to the Sept. 11 events.
The BBC has compiled reactions from world leaders (with video).
President Bush addressed the nation on Tuesday evening (video | transcript). He also released a statement Tuesday afternoon. Bush first learned of the World Trade Center tragedy while preparing to speak to schoolchildren in Sarasota, Fla.. There, he asked Amercians for a moment of silence for the victims.
Slate.com explained who responds to crisis situations.
An Interpol report details the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Earlier Christianity Today articles by Darrell Bock include:
No More Hollow Jesus | In focusing so intently on Jesus the man, Peter Jennings' report missed the big picture. (July 3, 2000)
For Us—and Creation | The gospel is about far more than heaven(Feb. 11, 2000)
Jesus v. Sanhedrin | Why Jesus 'lost' his trial" (Apr. 6, 1998).
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