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SBC leaders reflect on 9/11 & its new global realities

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“September 11, 2001 changed the way we look at the world,” Jack Graham, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, noted at the two-year point from the terrorist onslaught that claimed the lives of some 3,000 Americans — and shoved the country into a new era of vigilance, wariness and prayer amid a myriad of changed realities nationally and globally.

Baptist Press asked several Southern Baptist leaders to share their reflections on 9/11 at this two-year mark. Their responses follow.

— JACK GRAHAM, SBC president and pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano:

“September 11, 2001 changed the way we look at the world. People have been dramatically influenced by the impact of that day and we are still sorting through the rubble of that terrible experience two years later. As a result, President Bush is leading our nation in a war against terrorism, which is dark and dangerous. American troops now defend us in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and our national security is heightened. The entire world has changed and is changing. We must continue to pray for the president as he courageously seeks to protect our freedoms in a post-9/11 era.

“As a nation we must be ever vigilant in our efforts to win the peace and end terrorism and its fears. God’s people should be praying as never before for our troops and their families and that both national and international world leaders will know His wisdom. In times like these we should seek spiritual awakening and national unity.

“On the second anniversary of the attack upon America we are reminded again that life is fragile, evil is real, and only the message of Jesus will bring lasting peace and eternal hope to the hearts of men and women. The men and women who perished on September 11th should be remembered and honored, and their families supported with compassion. We will promise never to forget and intensify evangelism and missions around the world.

“The Bible predicts ‘that in the last days perilous times shall come’ (2 Timothy 3:1). Ultimately the hatred which is spilling out all over the world is a result of the ancient biblical conflict between good and evil and the violent conflict between the Arabs and Israelis. The Bible has spoken of these days and of the things to come. We see this more vividly through the tears of this national disaster and must now give our lives to advance the Kingdom of our Risen Redeemer.

“While September 11th is a day we will always remember, the believer looks by faith to another day, a day when evil is finally destroyed, a day when death is defeated, and Jesus rules the earth. ‘For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day’ (2 Timothy 1:12). That day … the day when Jesus comes for His own gives us meaning this day and every day. May all who look for His glorious appearing live faithfully and fully for the One Who is our security and strength. May we rededicate our lives and churches to the fulfilling of the Great Commission in this post-9/11 generation.”

— J.B. GRAHAM, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New York:

“I stood there in silence and tried to take in the magnitude of the experience as others gathered in that early New York morning. They too, grew silent as they stepped up on to the sidewalk and faced the fence. A few faded flowers and some weathered teddy bears were attached to the chain links. I had been there before the fence went up on the day the last fire truck was recovered five stories below the surface of those twin towers. I watched with a policeman who returned to the scene of his injury for the first time. We wept together.

“But the thing that caught my eye on this day was the overwhelming presence of the steel cross now set on its concrete base and standing in unabashed witness to the love of God. Then something else caught my eye. On the frame of the fence in typical New York graffiti these words were inked with magic marker: ‘Jesus loves the people who did this, but they don’t know it!’ Oh, God, how can we help them know it?”

— MORRIS H. CHAPMAN, president of the SBC Executive Committee:

“Two years ago this morning, a grave personal and national tragedy struck us. This was not only a national tragedy; it was and is an acutely personal one for the families of the more than three thousand of our fellow Americans who were slain as they began their workday.

“Men, driven by hatred, and deceived by deep religious error, assaulted our great nation. We began then to grieve and although the grief is not as fresh today, it is in every way as profound as it was then.

“Numerous acts of heroism, bravery and sacrifice were performed on 9/11 and since. We remember those heroes with earnest admiration and pride.

“For the few months following the attack on the Twin Towers, there seemed to be a turning within our nation — a turning from the crass and profane and a turning to God. It was our prayer then, and it is our prayer now, that the Lord would grant us an authentic, meaningful and permanent returning to Him.

“Our hearts go out to the grieving families of those who suffered and died. Many of them are still in great pain. We pray for the families of all the victims of the assault, that God would grant them the comfort of His own presence and provision. And we pray for our nation and its leaders as we continue the struggle against terrorism around the world.

“May the God of justice and peace grant peace to our world, accompanied by freedom and dignity.”

— RICHARD LAND, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:

“The events of 9/11 reminded us that death is always just one breath away. In this modern society in which we live with all of its medical technology, we don’t live with death as an ever-present visitor as did our forbears and as do many people in less medically advanced societies today. It has forced many Americans to confront much more urgently the questions: ‘Am I ready to meet my Maker, and what’s really important in life?’

“It has changed us. The extraordinary lack of violent behavior and the thousands of acts of spontaneous generosity and kindness exhibited during the recent blackout in the Northeast — in contrast to much different behavior in other blackouts — illustrate that 9/11 has made us all aware that as Americans we are all in this together.”

ROBERT E. (BOB) RECCORD, president of the SBC North American Mission Board:

“What has stayed with me are the snapshots of Christ’s love that shown through even in the midst of the most horrific tragedy. Southern Baptist chaplains ministered selflessly at Ground Zero and the adjacent morgue. And, our Disaster Relief volunteers put in thousands of hours and served 1.3 million meals to rescuers.

“My wife, Cheryl, and several other women at NAMB worked with the Southern Baptist association in New York to distribute gift bags to the wives of Port Authority officers who were working 24 hours a day in rescue and recovery. Those acts of kindness delivered in Jesus’ name were like rays of God’s light shining through one of our nation’s darkest hours.”

JAMES T. DRAPER JR., president of LifeWay Christian Resources:

“I believe one of the biggest challenges facing us within the evangelical church is apathy toward Islam, particularly in regard to its violent nature and unbiblical theology. How can we positively view a religion that has never advanced without violence? Unfortunately, many Christians are of the view that Allah and Jehovah are the same. That is incorrect and shows a lack of biblical understanding. Christians have to rise to a higher level of discipleship to understand our faith and to meet the challenge of Islam, not with the hatred and violence it espouses, but with the love and peace found in the truth of Jesus Christ.”

JAMES MERRITT, SBC president in 2001 and pastor of Cross Pointe, the Church at Gwinnett Center in the Atlanta area:

“9/11 is, as FDR said, ‘a date that will live in infamy.’ Like all Americans old enough to experience that day no one will ever forget where they were the moment they heard the news of our own “Pearl Harbor.” My wife is uneasy even now that I am flying out on 9/11 two years later.

“Yet I fear that Americans have in a sense already forgotten what I believe is one of the great lessons of 9/11, which is how dependent we are on a holy God for our everyday life.

“Personally, I will never forget meeting with President Bush nine days later before he made his historic address to the Congress. He made it plain how he believed God had brought him to the White House for ‘such a time as this’ and that America must never forget her dependence on God for her freedom. I pray still that somehow 9/11 could become a spark of revival in this nation that would see her return to the God in whom we say we trust.”
Compiled by Art Toalston.

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