But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be the children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
In writing my daily devotions, I like to stay anywhere from a week to ten days ahead. So, as it happens, the day I'm writing this Wednesday's devotional is actually Sunday, September 11, the ten-year commemoration of those deadly and unprovoked attacks on American soil which claimed the innocent and unsuspecting lives of so many. In the week preceding the ceremonies of remembrance planned for this day, images of the events themselves inundated the news media and the internet, heightening emotions and bringing back memories of exactly where we were and what we were doing when we learned of the tragic and heinous onslaught upon our country. The disaster's wake saw an America united unlike any time I can recall in my lifetime, but it shattered the belief that we lived in a nation protected, safe and secure from acts of war on our own soil. We became aware of the enemy, those so desperate to destroy us and our way of life, they were willing to sacrifice their own lives in the process. That evening ten years ago, numbed from watching the footage, and then seeing the shocking, unbelievably horrid video of Muslims celebrating in the Middle East over this victory, I broke down and cried. In my hurt and anger, I was not loving this enemy nor was I praying for them.
The next morning as my students entered my classroom, they were understandably subdued, but their faces revealed all the fear and uncertainty they harbored within. Yesterday's events had crushed the innocence of childhood, and that so grieved my heart. But, it was two of my best and brightest, girls with jet-black hair and brown skin and winning smiles, that riveted my attention at once. Usually enthusiastic and participatory in class, they sat motionless at their desks, heads bowed, looking as though they wished the floor would open up and swallow them. They were Muslim. Now, my heart was breaking.
When the bell rang, I asked the two girls to remain for a minute or two so we could talk. Standing by my desk, stock still like deer caught in headlights, their eyelids rimmed in red, they told me other students had taunted, mocked, and insulted them from the moment they got on the bus until the moment they came into my class. They were hurt, afraid, and confused. Yesterday's devastation had affected them deeply; weren't they Americans like the rest of us? Weren't Muslims among the dead at the World Trade Center? Why are they blaming us? We talked as long as the time allowed; I don't recall the exact words I said, but they must have found them comforting as both were bravely smiling again when they departed with passes to see their counselor and make her aware of the situation. I lifted silent prayers for both those precious girls.
Ten years later, is 9/11 about forgiveness or retaliation? Is it about remembering the fallen and their loved ones in prayer, or remembering the perpetrators with malice? Have we reached the place where we can love our enemies and pray for them? Where do you find yourself ten years later?
Psalms 119:97-120 or 81, 82
2 Kings 6:1-23
1 Corinthians 5:9-6:8