9/11, New York City, and God’s Judgment

 

We knew right then that other men     
            Had planned to have us killed.
But could this plot have not been stopped
            If God had only willed?
Was it perhaps, some moral lapse,
            That made us lose the twins?
Had we received, as some believed,
            A judgment for our sins?

(Excerpt from the 9/11 Epic Poem, Chapter 3)

            On the morning of September 11th 2001, thousands of ordinary New York residents went to work in the World Trade Center, completely unaware of the fact that within a few hours’ time many of them would be dead or injured. Most of the victims were hard-working, peace-loving citizens who expected to live for a few more decades before dieing of natural causes, surrounded by family and friends.  But instead they perished violently and suddenly beneath thousands of tons of cement and steel. The pure horror of their death sent shockwaves throughout the entire world.  It seemed that the victims themselves were not any different than all the other people who escaped. However, within days of the disaster, many were asking the inevitable question: was New York, or even America, the target of some special judgment by God that day?  Had our country become so horribly wicked that God decided it was time to punish us with violence?

            This is a very difficult question to address, because the reasons for which God allows things to happen is often far beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.  The September 11th tragedy is no different. However, a partial answer is possible because of a very similar event involving a falling tower that happened two thousand years ago.  Jesus, whom we Christians believe to be fully God, asked virtually the same question of those around Him. Here is the full account as recorded in the Bible.

                        “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all the other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)

            Jesus’ answer to His own question is just as startling as it is direct.  His answer that no, these men were not any worse than the rest of us, is not very comforting because of His next statement threatening the same result on His entire audience! To paraphrase: “The same kind of destruction will happen to you, if you do not repent!” Surely this is not the answer that they were looking for. They were hoping, as people hope today, that God would excuse them from judgment on the basis of their good works. But Jesus makes it clear that they were slated for judgment unless the fear of God convinced them to completely change their heart and trust in Him for salvation.

            So to answer the question, the victims of September 11th were not any more wicked or guilty then the rest of us. Some of them were undoubtedly genuine Christians who had repented of their sins long before and as a result arrived in heaven that day before the dust settled in the streets of New York. However, the fate of those who died but did not to repent, was very different. God is not a hate filled God who wants to send everyone to hell, but He is a sovereign and Holy God who expects us to come to Him on His terms.  It took a lot of love for Him to send His own son to Earth to experience death like a mortal. If you reject His terms you might as well be spitting in His face.

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