Forgiving 9-11

As a Christian and a pastor I struggle with America’s 9-11 tagline, “Never Forget.” If what we mean by that is that we will remember our loved ones and grieve this day, I am all for it. But if what we mean instead is that we will hold on to anger and hatred and paint others as the enemy—well, then we’ve missed the point of the Gospel and the cross upon which it rests.

Even as recent as a few weeks ago after a terrorist attack, Biden grossly misapplied a Bible passage to the U.S. military and then preached, “To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

This is why Jesus cannot fit into national politics, for the kind of Heavenly politics Jesus preached on the Sermon on the Mount require Christians to turn the other cheek, to love and to pray for our enemies, and to serve them. That will never be found in worldly politics. That kind of counter-cultural message will only ever preach on and through a cross—the very cross upon which we as Christians hang with our King.

So yes, on this day I remember my high school science teacher rolling out a TV for us to witness the horrors. I remember the somber walk through the high school hallway. I remember parents picking their kids up from school early for fear of what else might happen that day. I remember getting home and just staring at the TV. I remember the lives that were lost. I remember the realness and the darkness of the situation at hand. And for that reason I do not forget this day, for it was an example of the kind of things that happen when we let this world harden our hearts. I do not forget, so that I, too, do not become the kind of person that causes such pain in this world.

But as a Christian, I grieve on another level. I grieve the Christians I knew at the time that were former military and were immediately ready to re-enlist and go kill others for what happened on 9-11. I grieve the racism and skepticism that immediately surfaced around the multi-ethnic city I lived. I grieve the lives we took in response to 9-11. I grieve much.

Our world is not perfect. But the promise of Jesus is that one day, when he returns, it will be. In the meantime, we are to live out the politics of the Kingdom of Heaven under King Jesus so that the world may see that another world is possible and is already coming. How we live and think is an invitation to others to join us. The world to come doesn’t require us to forget a tragedy or to hide our grief, but it certainly does require us to forgive and let go of our hatred, pushing forward into a world where we love and serve everyone—especially our enemies. For love has a way of breaking the cycle of domination, pain and violence—but only if we’re brave enough to let it.

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