The 17th anniversary of 9/11 brings back many memories. All of us who remember that day recall where we were and how we heard about the attack. And our lives will be forever different.
When tragedy occurs, we see the worst of humanity and the best of humanity. Christians around the nation rushed to the stricken city to help. One of those was police chaplain Tim Storey of Alabaster who was part of a team sent to encourage fellow police officers some six months after 9/11.
Officer Storey showed some pictures at our church from his visit. One was from a fire station where 30 officers had been lost. Their comrades posted a memorial that read, "No farewell words were spoken, no time to say goodbye. You were gone before we knew it, and only God knows why."
The presence of evil is one of the great mysteries in scripture where we find a three-way tension between Satan and demons, the sovereignty of God and human will. The Bible affirms that Satan is the author of evil, to be sure. The late comedian Flip Wilson made famous the phrase, "the devil made me do it," but I don't see any evidence that Satan forces us to choose evil. The truth may be that "I made me do it."
The second part of this equation is the toughest. Scripture affirms God is in control and holds all power in his hands. But why would God allow errant jetliners to crash into buildings? We don't know. The firefighter memorial is true: "only God knows why."
For some reason God allowed evil men the freedom to choose an evil course. One of my seminary teachers, the late Frank Stagg, suggested that one way to understand the wrath of God is his determination to let sin run its course. In other words, God steps aside and lets the full weight of our wrong decisions impact our lives and the lives of others.
Whatever the causes of evil, Christians have an obligation to roll up their sleeves and help others. To quote Flip Wilson again, he once identified his religion. "I'm a Jehovah's by-stander," he said! Jehovah has some by-standers, but they're living outside his will. God's people don't stand idly by. As Dr. Leo Eddleman of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary noted years ago, the nearest pocket of need is a mission field, and the nearest Christian is a missionary.
We don’t know all the reasons 9/11 occurred, but we can celebrate the heroes of 9/11: a host of fire fighters and police officers and followers of Christ who unselfishly rushed in to help others in need.