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FIRST-PERSON: To a terrorism-shaken world, we should carry the gospel

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–As I write this, I am grieving both inwardly and outwardly over the heartache caused by the incredible series of terrorist attacks on our nation’s populace. Here in Oklahoma City, we have special sensitivity to such attacks. I’ve heard that the second plane to crash into New York’s World Trade Center did so at 9:03 a.m., the precise time of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building here in our own city.

We have some idea of what those touched by this tragedy will experience over the next hours, days and years. We know something of the fear that can lurk, hidden within and just waiting for the opportunity to strike. We grieve with them, knowing how their hearts will be wrenched with heavy sorrow and uncertainty.

What we have seen so dramatically portrayed in the media is raw terrorism at its very worst. Although the attack obviously required a massive, sophisticated and coordinated effort, it reveals the ugly, sinister and unsophisticated side of the sinful human heart — a heart so cunning and deceitful that there is no ultimate defense against it. So, “Unless the Lord keeps the house, the watchman wakes but in vain.”

“How to Live Right Side-up in an Upside-down World” is the title of my current Saturday evening sermon series from 2 Peter. This world is upside-down. It’s a place where evil is touted as good, and good is called evil; a place where right is condemned as wrong, while wrong is glorified as right; a place where the normal, traditional family is mocked as absurd, and absurd relationships are embraced as normal; a place where killing outside the womb is called terrorism, and killing in the womb is called one’s right; a place where God is portrayed as devilish, and the devil is worshiped as God.

That’s the work of the human heart without restraint or redemption.

It is in these days that people are searching for anchors, moral and spiritual absolutes in a troubled society. This is when the church should shine. It is God who has the answer for us. The psalmist declared, “Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.” God’s Word provides a clear message of hope for us in this troubled and uncertain time. It tells us of his Son, Jesus, the ultimate anchor for us in these or any days.

On the heels of Sept. 11’s attacks, houses of worship were filled. Interesting, isn’t it, that in moments like this the one Voice our upside-down world has sought to silence becomes the Voice it most desires to hear. We must not let them down — nor him. We must speak out boldly about the Lord and the necessity of faith in him. It is through that faith that life takes on meaning, purpose and hope.

No doubt memorial services will be held for years to come, reminding us of the tragic, unfathomable waste of human life which took place on Sept. 11, 2001, and of noble and heroic efforts to rescue the victims. There is benefit in the periodic reminder of life’s brevity and sin’s wickedness, contrasted against the inestimable value God has placed on the human soul — a value so high that his Son suffered the ultimate act of terrorism that he might rescue it.

We should grieve now for the multitude of terrorist victims, and for the victims of yesterday and tomorrow. We should grieve for a society that is upside-down and for churches which have been silent as we have grown indifferent to God and to one another.

But our grief must not swallow up our renewed determination to stand firmly on the absolutes of God’s Word, tirelessly proclaiming the simple gospel message, for in Christ alone there is hope.
Elliff is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, in suburban Oklahoma City, and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Tom Elliff