Reflections on 911
The worst terrorist act in history left vast property damage, thousands dead, and the world in shock. The world will not soon forget this act or its consequences. It will stand out on history's pages, the trigger to a new kind of war, one that knows no boundaries or rules. Those who ordered this atrocity may well have imagined to decapitate the United States and so the western world. The impossibility of such a result surely dawns, and with it the realization the game is all but over, and that when human justice overtakes them, no claim to have been serving a god will avail to escape.
Meanwhile, political, economic, social, and religious commentators wonder how the terrorists could commit so heinous a crime, particularly when it meant their own deaths. What kind of demented mind could plan such an attack, carry it out, or rejoice in its aftermath? But, how surprised should we be? Has not civilization always been a paper-thin veneer over barbarism? Does not this incident illustrate the black depravity of the human heart?
Make no mistake. This act, spurred on by the demons of hell who in its execution claimed its perpetrators, was not just a hateful act against the United States, nor only a crime against humanity or civilization as a whole. At the heart, it was high-handed sin against the one and only Almighty God who can and does hold all people everywhere to account for their behaviour, and who will bring them to His own final justice. The defiance of God by this evil band, potent as it may have seemed to deceived minds, ended the moment they entered eternity with blood on their hands and had to give account to the pure and holy One, their creator and judge, the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ.
But matters are little different for the rest of us. The scriptures remind us (Romans 3:23) "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". Since God's holiness is infinite, any falling short of perfection is enough to bar us from His presence permanently. Moreover, as this verse indicates, there is no other side to the coin, no quantity of good works we can employ to balance the ledger, for the debt due to sin is exceeds any mere human's capacity to pay.
But Jesus Christ has paid for sin on the cross, taking our punishment on Himself, and this payment is applicable to anyone who confesses sin, repents, and accepts Christ's salvation.
Someone will discount this Gospel message, observing that religions and prophets are numerous. True enough, but Christ claimed to be Son of God (and hence of the same Divine essence), accepted worship as such, and backed up his claims as only God could do. Death, demons, and sickness fled from his very presence. It is indeed scandalous that Christ claimed to be God, and the only way to the Father. It is also true. As God, His crucifixion on behalf of the sinners He would ransom, was powerfully sufficient. Since he was also human, it could be applicable to us, provided we accept. None of have currency to pay even for our own sin, let alone that of another, but (2Corinthians 5:21) "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
Others will object that some sins are surely more serious than others, so God would not condemn those of us who have sinned in lesser ways than, say, the terrorists. Indeed, some sins do bring greater consequences in this life, affect more people, do more damage, and cause more rejoicing to hell's denizens. Moreover, those who approve of wicked acts, or excuse them by blaming the victim share in the responsibility and also cannot escape the justice of God, whatever happens in this life.
But all sin, even the "little black lie" demands the "not good enough" verdict and the sentence of eternal separation from God. To be sure, there are scriptural indications some of hell's torments are greater than others. This was depicted in the Old Testament, which distinguished, for example, between inadvertent sin, for which atonement could be made, and high-handed (deliberate and defiant) sin, for which it could not.
The scriptures tell us God regards idolatry or false teaching about Himself and His standards, especially to children (causing them to stumble), as particularly grave. Indeed, it is clear that worshipping any false image of God, even one couched in religio-philosophical language, is idolatry, forbidden in His first commandment.
One could indeed suppose that committing premeditated murder and other heinous acts allegedly in behalf of (some human image of) a god does lie at one extreme of idolatry. But misrepresenting God's true nature in any way, even if ostensibly referring to the same being but with different attributes (e.g. denying the Divinity of Christ), is also idolatry, for the god worshipped is not the True One. Equally idolatrous is the modern three-self movement (self fulfilment, self actualization, self realization) promoted by new age cultists, in that the created person casts self as his or her own deity. In so doing one sets up a false image in place of the true God, and is no less guilty than those who claimed to serve their god by turning aeroplanes into weapons of mass destruction. Yes, theirs was a hell-inspired act, and as is typical in such cases, Satan claimed his servants in the very act of them acting as his henchmen. But what destination in the afterlife can the rest of us expect? After all, the scriptures say: (Isaiah 64:6) "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away."
In the aftermath of 911, many prominent figures were heard speaking of prayer (not in Canada, where such talk is all but proscribed in public places). To Whom were these prayers made, for what purpose, and to what end? For those who do not know the true God, having first acknowledged His Christ personally in saving faith, all that matters of prayer (before it is too late) is the sinners' plea. Hope for eternity lies not in doing deeds (whether motivated by hate or love) but in acknowledging sin, repenting, and receiving God's gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. In one who has taken this step, His Holy Spirit gradually proves the believer to be one of His by beginning to instantiate the character and the deeds of Jesus Christ.
That is, deeds done in God's name and for the sake of His kingdom follow salvation and are inspired by God, they do not lead to it or come from self. Moreover, at the end of life, God chooses to see the merits of Christ (and not their cancelled sin debt) in those whom Christ has saved, finding them acceptable to enter His heaven, though scarcely for actions of their own.
Jesus once commented: (Luke 13: 4-5) "Those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." On another occasion, he said: (John 3:36) "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for GodŐs wrath remains on him." Whatever our actions, there is a default destination for every human; we need to place faith in Jesus Christ to change that. It matters not whether we are fanatics murdering thousands for a false god, or merely ignoring God to live for self.
What if terrorists killed you this very day? Would you be ready to face God? What would you tell Him? That you thought He was someone else? That you have done mighty deeds for Him? That you're good enough? Or, would you say that you're a saved sinner who pleads the cross and the holiness of Christ as your only grounds to enter His presence? Jesus Himself said: (John 14:6) "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me."
The bottom line: (Acts 16:31) "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." (John 3:18) "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of GodŐs one and only Son."