Where was I on 9-11? I was a new dad, with hair on my head and a two-month old baby boy (see attached photo taken about a month after 9-11). I was working as a legislative aid to a senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When the planes hit I was in my office on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Like everyone else, I grieve each year. But as the
years go by, I have become more and more grateful for the men and women who
courageously took down United Flight 93 in the fields of Pennsylvania. Most
likely the Capitol Building was the intended target of that hijacked plane. My
life would have been altered greatly--perhaps even taken--if that plane had
also made it. It's hard to imagine my
son growing up never having met his father. I can't imagine a world
without my five children. And I couldn't imagine leaving the love of my life behind with a
newborn. I am grateful for what those
Yet at the same time, I grieve for the many, many
families who did lose loved ones. We all do.
After 9-11, I had a front row seat to the build up
of the U.S. military response. I also saw many of my colleagues join the Bush
Administration in key roles at the Pentagon and State Department. And in my heart of hearts, fear and revenge
festered. After all, we were gonna get
those radical Muslims after what they did to our country. But God had other
plans for my life.
Scripturally, I believe the U.S action to dismantle
Al Qaida and the Taliban was justified. Romans 13 states that God gives
governments the authority to wield the sword in a just manner. But what was unjust was my fear, suspicion
and even hatred toward the people from their religion, especially those who
looked like those bombers.
Fast forward to 2008. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were well
under way. I was no longer on Capitol
Hill, but serving in ministry in Atlanta.
In March of that year, the Lord led me to a most unusual place through a
series of most unusual circumstances. I
was standing in the corner of the main mosque in the old city of Damascus along
with a small group of doctors. As we
prayed for the worshipers who gathered for Friday prayers, I heard the Lord
speak to my heart like very few other times in my life. My prayer of "Lord, please send some
from this group to win Muslims for Christ," was met with the reply,
"What about you?" Christ's
presence was overwhelmingly strong. His
call was gentle and yet direct, like an arrow straight at my heart.
Since that day, through a series of trips, relationships with Muslims here at home, through prayer and the Word, the Lord has broken down the walls in my heart.
Those walls of fear and suspicion have been replaced by a boldness and a longing to connect. The people I once hated, Christ taught me to love.
This is the power of the gospel of Jesus
Christ. Jesus said and demonstrated many
radical things during his years of ministry.
Perhaps the most radical was the three simple words, "Love your
enemies." I've come to believe that
if I don't understand this, if I'm not living this out in my heart and mind,
then I don't understand the gospel.
My challenge to you today on 9-11 is to remember the
horror of this day. We must never forget. But also don't forget that day--2,000 years
ago--when a far greater horror took place at the cross of Calvary when evil men
tortured and killed the perfect Son of God.
Amazingly, Jesus said that no one takes his life from him, but that he
lays it down. And he did that for his
enemies, for people like you and me....and Hamid and Fatima and Mohamed.
May 9-11 be a reminder to us to love like Christ