LEBANON, Tenn. (BP)–The United States has gone to its knees to summon the spiritual resolve to weather the storm that swept ashore on Sept. 11, Richard Land said Sept. 16 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tenn.
“I have never felt better about my country and about her future than I do at this moment,” admitted Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and interim pastor at Immanuel.
All Americans have been humbled by these tragic events, he said, noting: “We have been forced to come to a new understanding that our security … cannot be in our material wealth. Our security cannot be ultimately in our military might. Our security is beyond ourselves. It must be found in God.”
Events like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks reveal the fiber of a country, he said. “We are seeing what this nation is really made of. No one is complaining about children praying in school. No one is complaining or asking if it is appropriate for the president to say, ‘Yes, I pray every day, several times a day, in the Oval Office.’ No one is questioning the spiritual resources of our nation this morning.”
America comes together in crisis, Land said, recalling the last time the nation’s sovereignty was so severely challenged – on Dec. 7, 1941. “There were no isolationists and internationalists,” Land said. “There were no Democrats and Republicans. There were just Americans.”
During the great upheavals in American history, national leaders know to call the nation to prayer and repentance as did President Bush, Land said. It is only “on our knees in prayer” that Americans can find “strength and comfort” in the face of so great a loss, he said.
“Cast your cares on him, for he careth for you,” Land said, reading from chapter 5 of 1 Peter. “We can bring our pain and our shock and our insecurity and our grief to God. He has called us to do so” through the lasting connection God made with mankind through Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross.
“We are to reach out and to grieve with those that grieve and to remember those who are in suffering as though we suffer with them,” Land said, noting the nation has seen “an incredible, spontaneous outpouring of generosity and of courage.”
Land saluted the firefighters, police officers and rescue workers who were putting themselves in harm’s way, not out of necessity but “out of brotherly love for their fellow man.” He noted the bravery of the passengers on United Airlines flight 93 who apparently fought to overcome the hijackers in a successful attempt to prevent further carnage.
“As long as our nation is producing citizens like that, there is hope for this nation,” Land said.
“We need to pray for the families of the victims. We need to pray for our countrymen. We need to pray for our fellow citizens who serve in the military,” Land said. Yet America “must go in and root out this evil” that masterminded these ghastly raids on the nation, he acknowledged.
Citizens must look to their government to respond to these attacks, he said. “We do not have the right for personal vengeance. But we do have the right to expect our government to exact justice.”
The apostle Paul’s writings in Romans, chapter 13, make clear it is the responsibility of the state to punish evildoers and reward those who do good, he explained.
“We have a right to expect that the divinely ordained civil government will bring the perpetrators to justice to the fullest extent of the law,” along with “those who bred them and those who fed them and those who gave them sustenance,” Land said.
However, he said, Scripture demands that Christians care for those who do wrong. “Now this is hard. We do not have the right to hate these terrorists. God loved them. God sent Jesus to die for them. No matter how twisted, no matter how perverted by hate and vengeance they have become, we lower ourselves to their level if we harbor hatred and animosity in our hearts toward them as individuals.
“Those Americans who died at the Pentagon and on those planes and at the World Trade Center are victims,” Land said, but so are many of the people who live in spiritual slavery in these nations where they are taught corrosive hatred that twists and distorts and stifles the soul.”
While the government must respond with military force, Christians should respond with prayers for the eternal future of those who are locked in this “spiritual slavery,” Land said.
“The kind of evil with which we have been confronted this past week can only flourish in closed societies where people have no source of truth and where voices that disagree are silenced by the bayonet and the rifle,” he noted.
Throughout U.S. history, Land said the nation’s enemies have misjudged her citizen’s patriotic and spiritual resolve. “That’s a dangerous mistake,” he noted. “When we’re roused, and our attention is focused, we have shown the ability to marshal our resources, both material and spiritual, and to hurl ourselves at those who would attack and threaten us and hammer them into the ground.
“These people are about to understand how terribly they have misjudged our nation,” Land said.