Written by Sam Logan
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 00:00
It is 9/11.
And it will be 9/11 every year at this time.
This means that once a year, every year, as long as those of us who were alive and aware of what was happening on that date in 2001, we will be faced with responding to the memory of that trauma.
How might a commitment to evangelical missional theology have relevance to those responses? In this blog, I want to make just one tentative suggestion.
That suggestion arises from the fact that, during the several weeks just before September 11, 2013, my wife and I have had the privilege of being in Scotland and of reading British papers and watching (a bit of) British television. I have frankly been a bit surprised by the attention that has been paid in prime time television here both to the events of 9/11 and to later developments relating to that day.
One television program dealt with “The Woman Who Wasn’t There,” the story of an individual who originally claimed she had been working in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. She became heavily involved with the work of 9/11 survivors until it was discovered that she was not present at all on the day the planes hit. A second program, “The Lost Hero of 9/11,” focused on a Marine who raced to the scene of the tragedy and risked his life several times but ultimately was able to rescue two firemen who were trapped in the rubble. And the third story focused on the progress which has been made in “Rebuilding the World Trade Center.”
One thing I noted in all three of these (secular) programs, even in the first of them, was the near total lack of expressions of anger and hatred. I was especially impressed with this with regard to the survivors of 9/11 when they discovered that a person who had claimed to share their distress was discovered not to do so. Of course, they were disappointed and, of course, action was taken to remove the person from the leadership of the survivors group. But no anger, no hatred . . . , at least none that I sensed.
Further, neither Jason Thomas, the “lost hero,” nor those whom he rescued expressed anger toward or hatred of those who caused the tragedy. It is, of course, possible, that such anger and hatred existed but none was shown. Perhaps this reflects more the perspective of those who produced the show but my point is that, for whatever reason, those things were NOT highlighted.
So what does this have to do with being missional evangelical Christians? It certainly does not mean that missional Christians ignore injustice or soft-pedal the need for judgment on sin. It also does not mean that missional Christians ignore the need, in our fallen world, of police and armies. Missional Christians are not defined by that bumper sticker which proclaims that “War Is NOT the Answer” because missional Christians know that this depends on the question.
But it does mean that missional Christians know and feel in their bones that the greatest injustice that the world has ever seen – that God’s creatures willfully reject and dishonor Him – has been paid for by the steepest price imaginable – the blood of Jesus – and that, ultimately, our primary task is to go to sinners of all kinds, even those who directly or indirectly supported the 9/11 murderers, and, as winsomely as possible, seek to bring them to the place where they personally embrace the One who paid that unimaginable price. Why do we do this? Not because such people “deserve” salvation but because our Triune God does deserve their obedience, worship, and praise.
No, of course, I don’t think that this is why the three above-mentioned British television shows approached the events of 9/11 as they did. I am not sure why they did it. Perhaps their reasons were as bad as Thomas Beckett’s original motives for seeking Christian martyrdom: “The last temptation is the greatest treason - to do the right thing for the wrong reason” (T. S. Eliot, MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL). But I am not necessarily writing this blog to British television producers (unless, of course, they are evangelical missional Christians).
I am writing this blog for and to those of us who, as evangelical missional Christians face again today the memory of what happened 12 years ago. I speak to myself at least as much as to anyone else. Perhaps we can learn from the television programs mentioned above something about ways in which we might respond, both this year and in future years, to that memory. Without down-playing in any way the importance of horizontal justice for the fomenters of that tragedy or the need to protect our children and our neighbors from the possible repetition of that tragedy, how can we respond to the memory in a way that, to use an old Puritan phrase, “improves” that memory in a vertical way.
To make this is specific and as practical as I can, how might we, as missional Christians, use the occasion of 9/11, as winsomely as possible, to seek to bring those supporting that tragedy (and the rest of the watching world) to the place where they personally embrace the One who paid the unimaginable price of His own life? After all, He really does deserve it!
Sam Logan is Senior Counsel for Major Gifts at Biblical. He also serves as the International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship (www.wrfnet.org). He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and is President Emeritus of Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia).. He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan