Where was I on 9-11?

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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 passengers did.

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 loved.