How should we respond to this terrorist attack?

July 17, 2002

Williams Trace Baptist Church

In the early morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, two jet airliners hit the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York. Later, an airliner would hit the Pentagon. These were symbols of American financial and military power. This was one of the most shocking terrorist attacks in U.S. history. Many people were killed, and a nation was thrown into shock. All of a sudden, everything changed. We seem no longer to be standing together in the center of time. Now, we are on the edge of time, looking off into eternity. There were immediate calls for retaliation. But where and how to retaliate became major questions. Our immediate gut emotional response is to retaliate with equal or greater force against the person or persons behind this attack. Our sense of justice calls for someone to suffer. 
In Matthew's gospel, chapter 18, verse 7, Jesus says, "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come."
God is in charge. In the Old Testament, God says, "Vengeance is mine. I will repay! In due time, their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near, and their doom rushes upon them." (Deut. 32:35: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them." -- The song of Moses to Israel just before his death).
There will be an accounting for this crime. God may use people to bring the guilty party or parties to justice. This is why we must pray for and support our president and the leaders of other nations.
But, how do we, as Christians, respond to this terrorist attack? Peter gives us a good response. He is writing to Christians who were being hunted down and killed by the Roman Emperor Nero, simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ. In times like this, when we feel that we are standing on the edge of time and looking out into eternity, we should do these four things:

Cast all our cares on God (v. 7)
When self has been set up as a god, and self fails, there is no place to turn for salvation. America is not God. God is God. Even if the nation falls, God is still on His throne. "Cast" comes from epiripsantes, to throw something upon something else, e.g., to throw clothes on an animal for riding. The word "cares" comes from merimna, worry or anxiety, as when one does not know whether to do this or that, i.e., distraction. We have the verb in Luke 10:41: "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many thing." Martha was distracted by all she wanted to do, not knowing what to turn her hand to and in desperation going to Jesus to have him order Mary to help her. The word is used of involvement in the affairs of the world. (Mt. 13:22: "The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.")
"All our cares" is inclusive. Everything of this kind, we are to throw upon God because he is caring for us, attending to us and to all our needs. What concerns us concerns Him. This is an allusion to Ps. 55:22: "Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." God will carry you and your burden. If it's anger, let him carry it. 
How do we cast our cares on the Lord? 
• Prayer: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)
• Bible reading: "Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4) We are not left to handle life alone; we face it with God.
Be self-controlled and alert (v. 8)
These two Greek words are imperatives, commands. To be self-controlled means to achieve a balance in disposition, thought and action, never to be flighty, carried away by notions of our own or others. The Greek word is nesate, from ne, meaning not, and pieiv, meaning to drink, coupled with katapie, meaning to drink down. Do not drink anything down that would impair your judgment -- do not swallow something that would impair your judgment. We would say, "You didn't swallow that, did you?" To be alert means not dull or sleepy. Don't be caught off guard. Confidence in God must not lead to slackness. Spiritual warfare demands vigilance. 
We have to be in the word and in fellowship with like-minded believers. This is why Bible study and worship attendance are so important. We must have these to counter what you see and hear in our culture everyday. We must have the fellowship of people with similar beliefs to help strengthen us. Anytime we let our regular fellowship around the word of God be sacrificed for fellowship around some other activity, we let our guard down.
Christian ethics and values are unique. What happened aboard those airplanes represents a value system different from our Christian value system -- the value of human life from Genesis 1:26-27: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.'"

Know your enemy and his plan (v. 8)
"Your enemy," from antidikos, the word for an opponent in a court before a judge, as in Luke 18:3: "And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary." The devil (diabolos, meaning slanderer) goes after us in three ways: 
1) the subtle serpent -- to fool our senses, to pervert our judgment; 
2) the angel of light -- to deceive us with false views of spiritual things, such as presumption on the grace and providence of God; and 
3) as a roaring lion. But here, we have the imagery of a raging lion. This lion is not silent, stealthily prowling around; he is letting his frightful roar sound forth. He is out to destroy us with violent opposition, persecution and death. He is always walking around (peripatei -- always in motion). He is "seeking" (zetown), whom to devour (katapeion, to swallow down).
At that time, under Nero, the roar of frightful persecution was being heard by the Christian victims. In October of the year 64, the storm broke. Peter himself became a victim of it.
He is always on the go looking for someone to destroy. (Job 2:2: "And the Lord said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the Lord, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.") Destruction is the work of the devil.

Resist the devil by faith (v. 9)
Stand up to and stand against the evil inspired by the devil (antistete, meaning to stand against, an imperative). How do we do this? We overcome the devil by holding fast to our faith (ztereoi, meaning firm, unbending, hard. In regard to the Christian faith, it means not denying the Christian faith in the face of persecution. (James 4:7: "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.") Standing against the devil is standing against his temptations. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Remember that we do not stand alone. There are many others in the world suffering the same way. There is a fellowship in our sufferings. This is unique to America at this time in history, but it is not unique to people around the world. We will survive and prosper. We will lead this world out of this terrorist intimidation.
What has happened in our country reminds us that life is fragile. There are no guarantees of tomorrow. Many people went to work Tuesday morning expecting to go home at the end of the day. The only way we can be prepared to face a tragedy like this is to be in God's care.

Personal statement:
Since 9-11, the life of Williams Trace Baptist Church has not really changed. Individually though, I feel less secure physically. I realize that our casual attitude about so many things is no longer viable in our country. For many people, spontaneity and the carefree way of life have been sacrificed to the whims of these terrorists. We are not as free as we once were.