On Sept. 11, 2001 (9/11), America suffered an unconscionable and cataclysmic attack by Islamic extremists. Thousands of innocent lives were snuffed out in the piracy of civilian aircraft that became weapons of mass destruction.
In sorrow, many Americans turned to God for consolation. And our mourning continues to this day, 20 years later. May the Lord comfort the families of the victims, and the survivors who struggle with the horror of that heartbreaking moment when the world changed.
But some have wondered if America somehow deserved this attack as punishment for our past deeds. It was Rev. Jeremiah Wright who famously said, “We are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”
His suppositions concur with others who feel that the misguided actions of America caused God to send this calamity as judgment. In essence, they believe that the ones who died on 9/11 deserved it. Could that be true?
One day Jesus was teaching about repentance (Luke 13), when He incorporated two then-current tragedies into His lesson. The first tragedy was about a massacre of Galilean Jews by the Roman Governor Pilate. Jesus said in verses 2-3 (NIV), “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
The second tragedy was about 18 innocent victims killed when a tower accidently fell on them. In verses 4-5 Jesus said, “Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Human nature loves to cast blame on others. Some preachers have even said that all sickness is a direct result of your sin. In their mind, anyone who is ill or suffers a great calamity earned it. How sad to pile on a sick person the added baggage of God’s judgment.
Instead, choose to listen to Jesus. He always ministers with truth, love, and gracious sensitivity. In the crowd surrounding Him in Luke 13, there could have been grieving relatives of those who died in the aforementioned events. Jesus made two powerful points:
1. Do not assume that a victim of a tragedy deserved it.
2. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Without repentance we will die in our sins.
As we remember the horror of 9/11, know that we serve a merciful and forgiving God. The Good News: “If we confess our sins, [Christ] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Please do.