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FIRST-PERSON: Are we deterred?

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The world has never been a safe place, but as Americans we lived under the illusion of security and immunity from terrorist attacks. The hijacking of four commercial airliners and the tragic destruction of lives at the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11 have shattered all those illusions.

Global relations became even more strained. Our nation became embroiled in warfare against an elusive enemy. Our economy began a slide into recession; life came under a shadow of fear and suspicion.

The questions have been asked over and over. How could America be touched with such a tragedy? Why would people so hate our freedom-loving democracy that they would be committed to such destruction of life?

Is it because of our lax security systems or our deficiency in international relations? Could an insensitivity to religious worldviews be used to justify these acts of terror? All may be a factor, but essentially the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred because of our failure to fulfill the Great Commission.

Almost 2,000 years ago our Lord told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He commissioned us to make disciples of all nations. What would our world be like if we, and the generations of Christians who preceded us, had been obedient to that mandate? What if the gospel had swept across the Muslim world, bringing the darkened souls of men to a new life in Jesus Christ?

The widespread interest in spiritual matters immediately after Sept. 11 quickly dissipated. The economy is showing signs of recovery, travelers are returning to the air and society has reclaimed a sense of normalcy. But will the realities that precipitated this tragedy a year ago strengthen our resolve to do something about a world without Christ?

A year later we find missionaries continuing to surrender to God’s call in record numbers. Yes, they are sensitive to the risk involved as they hasten to touch unreached people groups with the gospel. But it is no longer simply antagonism to a Christian witness that makes them vulnerable. The simple fact they are Americans now makes them the target of potential threats.

Does that deter us from being witnesses for Christ to the uttermost ends of the earth? No more than it deterred our Lord from going to the cross, motivated by his love for the world and passion that all peoples would know and exalt the Father!

Thirteen years ago when the Berlin Wall fell and doors of opportunity began to open all across the former Soviet Union and the communist world, we recognized there remained one last formidable barrier to global evangelization — the Muslim world.

Now personnel throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia are seeing signs of disillusionment among adherents of the Muslim faith. People are asking questions that indicate a search for hope and security, and the answer is Jesus Christ.

In God’s providence, the tragedy of a year ago has turned into an unprecedented opportunity for penetrating the Muslim world. Our sovereign Lord is shaking the nations. May we be found faithful in going and sharing the hope of the gospel.
Jerry Rankin is president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.

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  • Jerry Rankin