On the Road


Thoughts on 9-11-01
By Stanley J. Grenz

Contemporary historians routinely declare that the twentieth century did not begin with the changing of the calendar from December 31, 1900, to January 1, 1901. Rather they date the beginning of the century over a decade later, June 28, 1914. On that day Serb nationalists assassinated the heir to the throne of the Austrian empire, and the First World War, which changed forever the face not only of Europe but of the entire world, began.

We cannot predict what event future historians will see as inaugurating the twenty-first century. However, it is possible that they will one day say that the century did not begin on January 1, 2001, but on September 11. Like the bloody killing that occurred eighty-seven years earlier, the terrorist attacks may well invariably alter our world. These events vividly revealed that there is no longer any haven that lies beyond the pale of the potential for mass destruction precipitated by hatred.

How can we live in the aftermath of 9-11-01? Is it possible to be a people of faith in what some have dubbed as "the post-twin towers world." In my attempt to seek an answer to this question and to cope with the unparalleled realities unleashed by the terrorist strikes, in the aftermath of September 11 I was drawn to a text, a hymn and a movie.

The text: Since September 11, Psalm 46 has taken on new meaning for me. "God is our refuge and strength...Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way...Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations." These words offer a needed reminder that God alone is the one to whom we must turn as the ultimate resource for living through perilous times.

The hymn: Since September 11, I sing with far deeper appreciation the lyrics to the old hymn. "Grant us wisdom, Grant us courage, for the living of these days." The prayer articulated by the poet encapsulates the groaning of my own heart. I have come to see more clearly that for us not only to cope with perilous times but to serve the present generation in the name of Christ requires that we be the recipients of the twin gifts the hymn-writer pinpoints: wisdom and courage. These are crucial, as the hymn rightly declares, "Lest we miss Thy kingdom's goal."

The movie: The Sunday evening after that fateful day, I was drawn to watch in solitude Thirteen Days, which depicts the events surrounding another potentially world-altering event that occurred during my childhood--the Cuban missile crisis. As I viewed the video, I was struck with a sense that God had graciously provided leaders at that crucial juncture in world history who had been divinely prepared to cope with a situation that could possibly have led to the annihilation of humankind. This, in turn, led me to a deeper sense of the presence in the current crisis of the God who is sovereign over history. And it planted in my heart the reassuring hope that perhaps God had placed in leadership positions today persons whom he had similarly providentially prepared for the grave challenge of navigating our way through these stormy days.

As Christians, we are called to live as lights in a dark world. The events of September 11 came upon us as a stark--and unwelcome--reminder as to just how dark our world in fact is. But God is greater than the darkness around us. This God is still at work in human history. He still grants wisdom and courage to all who ask. And he remains forever our only sure refuge. Armed with these truths, we can discover even in midst of the new reality--the changed world--that was born in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, that faith in the God of history truly works.

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