Where were you on 9/11/01 – a day, that for our generation, will live in infamy? Approaching the 10th anniversary of that awful day, a day when extreme evil was perpetrated against our country and her people, that “Where were you?” question has echoed in coffee shops and locker rooms, along dusty country roads and around dining room tables. Where were you?
And yet, no matter where we found ourselves on that fateful day, today we solemnly remember the devastating attacks, catastrophic loss of life and heroic bravery of countless individuals. We remind ourselves of the atrocities and declare the acts as genuinely evil. We mourn the loss of hope and promise represented by each destroyed life. We gratefully acknowledge the selfless acts which far exceeded the expected call of duty. We pause to remember. We pause to reflect. We pause to show respect.
And in our hearts, we also pause to respond. But- how can one possibly respond to such unthinkable horror? What reaction could possibly “fit” such a crime? Retribution? Retaliation? Revenge?
What about love?
A wise man once said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” But he didn’t just challenge his listeners with counter-cultural speeches, he acted on them. In fact, one particular day this wise man removed his outer cloak and washed the dirty, dusty feet of those gathered – an unpleasant, menial job normally reserved for the hired help. To make matters worse, one set of feet belonged to this man’s known arch-enemy – an enemy who would shortly betray him. The wise man, known by his friends as Yeshua, loved his enemy. He served his enemy. And he instructs us to do the same.
Loving our enemy might have sounded relatively simple in Sunday School as a youngster. But this wise man certainly couldn’t have intended that we respond in love and service to terrorists, could he? As I wrestle with this question, I’m reminded His ways are not my ways, that His thoughts are not my thoughts. I honestly don’t know what “love your enemies, bless those who curse you” looks like in governmental policy and military response. I pray for wise, bold, courageous leaders to come together to flesh this out. I pray for our troops who daily place our country’s honor, protection and freedom above their personal safety and comfort. I pray for governments, regimes, dictatorships and countries who enslave their people and produce terrorists bent on destruction.
And yet, “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you” still reverberates in my head, posing a question. How will I respond to the infamous day of 9/11? Will I choose hatred and hysteria or humble service and love? Will I rely on manmade machinery or divine guidance? Will I react to terror with short-lived God searches or strive to consistently live a life increasingly characterized by the teachings of Yeshua?
To be honest, I have sketchy memories of where I exactly was on the morning of 9/11. I was a new mom with a young baby. But as meaningful as the solemn remembrances are, as interesting as answers to the question, “Where were you?” might be, I long to see and hear answers to, “Now what?” What have we learned? How has our society changed? Are we more characterized by love or hatred? Have our culture’s values become more or less aligned with Yeshua’s words?
And what about the next ten years? What type of society do you envision and desire? And how can you work toward that even today? In ways I can’t begin to understand, I know when we choose to love our enemy, to bless those who curse us, and do good to those who hate us, positive change will happen. September 11, 2001, a day characterized by evil and hatred, can, starting September 11, 2011, be a catalyst for love. Mother Theresa was that type of love catalyst. She once remarked, “I can do no great things, only small things with great love.” And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she was washing her enemy’s feet as she uttered such profound wisdom.