I have a habit of looking at cliches and, perhaps annoyingly, asking, “What do you mean?” Cliches, while witty, sometimes inspirational and with the power of a trump card, can often get dangerously vague or sometimes anti-intellectual. So yeah, I have to dissect cliches every once in a while.
One cliche has been around for awhile, referring to the attacks on New York’s World Trade Center on September 11, 2001: “We Will Never Forget.”
And I just have to ask. What does that mean?
Does that mean that we won’t forget the lives lost in that tragic event, and that we will remember them with honor?
Or does it mean we won’t forget the pain of the tragic event, like we’re nursing a grudge toward those responsible and anyone associated or gracious towards?
Does that mean we won’t forget the selflessness and unity inspired (even if only temporarily) by the cataclysm?
Or does it mean that we’ll always remember why we have a few extra measures of subconscious fear and enforced security in airports, etc.?
Personally, as I “remember” September 11, I want to follow the apostle Paul’s instructions on how to “think about such things (Phil.4:8).”
Three things I want to remember:
-The lives lost in a sadistic plot by a group of confused individuals who don’t have regard for the sanctity of human life.
-The nobility of those who saved lives in danger, whether by sending provisions from afar or pulling people out of the rubble.
-Grace, humility and peace, which are the opposite of aggression, pride and conquest. The former are both Christ-like (and arguably American) values that were shown in unity in our country, even if only for a short time.
Three things I want to forget:
-Demeaning of Muslims, Sikhs, and all Middle Eastern individuals both at home and abroad, which has cost our country socially, morally and economically.
-The inappropriate politicization of, well, anything related to 9/11.
-The temptation to sacrifice too much for a stronger sense of personal physical security.
My church is a very multi-cultural Baptist church in a mostly white suburb of Chicago. Yesterday, we had several Middle-Eastern individuals sitting in our small sanctuary, some wearing headscarves. Our pastor preached on the ten lepers that Jesus healed (Luke 17:11-19) and how the only leper or the ten who came back to thank Jesus for healing him of this harsh, quarantining and deadly disease was a lowly Samaritan. A point of the sermon? We should be thankful for God’s grace in our lives.
It’s all about God’s grace. It’s the reason we’re alive, and we need to show it and share it. Once you have it, you don’t need anything else. God’s grace is more important than patriotism. It’s more important than earthly physical security. It’s more important than any socio-political agenda. I’m thankful for God’s grace in my life, because, in my past, I’m not completely innocent of the things about 9/11 that I want to forget.
If you don’t have God’s grace, seek it. If you have it, don’t take it for granted. Never forget.