Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11 Plus 8

Eight years ago whispers about a plane flying into the World Trade Center caused me to doubt such reports and to tell the folks it was probably just an amateur pilot and an accident. Then the reports were unmistakable that this was an action of hate fueled by a false sense of justice and righteousness on the part of Islamic terrorists. Our nation has lived with the shock of such attacks for eight years now and we know how vulnerable a free society is to the power of hate.

It occurs to me that we all ought to pause and say a prayer of thanksgiving for the emergency personnel, police, firefighters, and members of the armed services who turned that terrible day into the triumph of duty, courage, and honor... and who still act to protect, defend, and care for us as citizens -- no matter how much danger their personal lives must face to do so.

It also occurs to me that Islam and Christianity share a common evangelistic component but in very different ways. Neither Buddhists nor Hindu actively seek conversions and we know Judaism is not evangelistic.

The two faiths that are evangelistic are Christianity and Islam but in very different ways. While Christians talk about hell and the judgment that awaits those who stand outside of Jesus Christ, the motivation for evangelism is love -- extending the reach of God's love through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His righteous life, life-giving death, and victorious resurrection that have accomplished forgiveness, life, and salvation for the whole world... but those who benefit from His sacrificial gift are only those who grasp hold of this grace by faith, faith guided by the Spirit. Evangelism is inclusive -- for all people -- but salvation is exclusive -- through the merits of Jesus Christ alone. In contrast to that, Islam outreach includes contempt for and hate for those who are not Islam (the infidels). It is this hate that separates the evangelistic outreach of Christianity and Islam.

Christians speak of a God who hates sin but loves the sinner and who is moved by this love to take the burden of this sin, guilt, and punishment upon Himself through His only Son. This is a God whose mercy is even more powerful than His wrath and His justice. This God does not justify or excuse sin but confronts its terrible power with the saving and cleansing power of Jesus' blood. Islam speaks of a God who hates the infidel, who hates those who are not Islam and regards them as enemies that Muslims are justified in hating, hurting, and even killing.

Americans since 9-11 are confused by Islam. On one hand we have had Muslim neighbors for many years and did not fear them or see them as purveyors of hate. On the other hand, we wonder how so many Muslims can hate and seek holy justice in their god's name and this not be representative of Islam as a whole.

That is not to say there are no Christian haters -- there are. But most of these are not churches or even denominations. They are individuals. They act in their own names as agents of hate (some of those who bomb abortion clinics or kill abortion doctors or promote violence against homosexuals are a few of those so called Christians who hate). As Christians we abhor this violence and condemn it. No Christian who is pro-life can excuse or justify harm or murder of those on the other side. Neither can any Christian who stands for marriage of a man and a woman excuse or justify the harm to or even the denial of civil rights to those on the other side.

So as we recall those who died eight years ago, we find ourselves still confused by it all. Which Islam is the true Islam -- the one that hates or the one that lives in tolerance and the rule of law? How are we Christians to react to our Muslim neighbors here and throughout the world?

It the continuing legacy of 9-11 that finds the predominant faith of America still wondering about the predominant faith of those who promote terror, hate, and violence in the name of their god.

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