Where were you on September 11, 2001? I was dropping my daughter off at school when the first reports of a plane hitting the World Trade Center came on the radio. At first, there was only confusion. It must have been some kind of freak accident. By the time I reached home, the second plane had hit and there were sketchy reports of other airline incidents. I sat glued to the television the rest of the day like many other Americans. I watched the towers collapse on live TV and endless replays of everything.
That evening, I drove to the gas station to fill up because my car’s tank was almost empty. I was shocked to find one of the stations in our small town sold out and the others with lines five cars long! I eventually filled up and drove home wondering why people were so scared—and what was in store for us the next day. For the next few days, I listened as people speculated on why a small Minnesota town might be next in line for a terrorist attack. Similar conversations were held throughout the country.
The following Sunday, our church was filled to overflowing. People were looking for comfort and some kind of security. But by the next week, the attendance was a little lower and after a few weeks of no more attacks, attendance was back to normal. Most people had settled back into their lives and seemed to be no longer quite so concerned about their faith.
What was it that had caused the lines at the gas station? And the sudden, but brief, rise in church attendance not only in my town, but throughout the country? It was fear. Everyone was suddenly jerked awake when so many average people died just living their everyday lives. They thought, “What if it had been me?” The attacks on 9/11 were a wakeup call in many ways. Spiritually, they woke up many to the realization that their lives could end at any moment. It didn’t matter if you were a small child in daycare or a wealthy businessman. And if our lives can end at any moment, then what?
As Christians, we know the answer is to always be prepared to meet our Savior. We are specifically reminded to be prepared for Christ to return. Jesus Himself tells us, Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:44 ESV). Although Jesus is speaking here of His Second Coming, these words also remind us that our own last day could come at any time and we need to be ready.
Where will you be for eternity? When we think about these things, we might be afraid. But for a Christian, there is no need to fear the future! With the Apostle Paul, a Christian can say, The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18 ESV). We know that whether we live a short or long life on this earth, neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39 ESV). Jesus has promised eternal life in Heaven to all who believe in Him as their Savior!
That day eleven years back I was teaching a course on Romans at Bethany College. I cut the class short, since I was scheduled for chapel that morning. By the way, the text I had been assigned by the chaplain was Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies.” When I walked into the entrance of the chapel, I was greeted by BLC Pres. Meyer who informed me he and Chaplain DecGarmeaux would be using the 10:00 AM slot to share up-to-date information with the students and then to urge prayers before the throne of our Almighty and Loving Lord. Even though the text wasn’t used that day, it is still true, of course, that love for our enemies needs to be on our minds as we pray for a change of heart that comes through faith in Christ Jesus whose forgiveness of sins is free for the taking and knows no bounds. JAM