It’s been 10 years. 10 years is a long time. When the terrorist attacks happened on September 11, I was still in college. I hadn’t met my husband yet. My daughter didn’t even exist yet. And the kids I talked with at Sunday School today were only 5 or 6 when the attacks occurred. They mostly don’t remember the terror and even now don’t know many parts of the story. They have only known a nation in which terrorism is a constant threat to our safety. Their world is a different world than the one I grew up in.
On 9/11, I had already forged a friendship with a Muslim family in our town. Their son worked at the local fast food joint where I worked as well before I started college. We continued to remain friends and I will always be indebted to him and to his family for all they taught me about moderate Islam.
Before I met my friend (who I will call “John”), I had some pretty narrow-minded ideas about Muslims. I believed that they all were oppressive to women, that they were restrictive and perhaps even hateful to others.
But when I met John and had many interesting conversations with him over Butterburgers and frozen custard, I began to gain a real respect for him and his family. They were pious and committed to their faith in a way that I rarely see of Christians. John took time out of his day to perform his prayers, even at the risk of ridicule and inconvenience. I learned that Islam is about submission to God, that Muslim men are allowed to talk to women (I had thought otherwise), that often a gracious way of speech and attitude came with their pious devotion to faith. I learned that for moderate Muslims, having a women cover her head was an expression of modesty, that a women uncovered at home, and that men also had modesty restrictions. I engaged in many religious debates and discussions with John as we sat at the lunch table. I brought him a Bible and he brought me a Koran. I read most of it and took copious notes. I was surprised that there were many good and lovely things in the Koran that I could agree with.
I was sad, however, that my friend didn’t believe in Jesus. I never stopped praying for him and for his family to come to faith. I pray for him still sometimes.
When 9/11 happened, one of the first things I did was call my friend. (Perhaps he was upset about being regarded as my personal Muslim expert on the terrorist attacks, but if so, he didn’t tell me.) Instead, he expressed his and his family’s sadness and regret at the violence.
I think if I had not had a Muslim friend, I may have looked at the world differently after 9/11. I am forever grateful to him and his family for the impact they had in my life and on my perspective. I know a lot of people who think of the world in an “us-them” kind of way. They sometimes think of 9/11 as an attack on Christianity, but I don’t think of it that way, unless maybe it was an attack on false Christianity (evil Western practices that got lumped in with Christianity). I know there are radical Muslims in the world who persecute Christians. I don’t deny that. I just don’t think that’s what 9/11 was.
As I think of what our continued response should be as Christians to the evils of that most awful day, I ask myself, “What would Jesus do after 9/11?” I don’t think Jesus would be out there telling everybody how awful Muslims were and scaring everybody about them.
I think Jesus might look in His community to see if there are some Muslims there who are scared for their safety, scared that they will be lumped in with the few bad eggs in their lot. I think Jesus would do what He could to protect them and to befriend them. I think Jesus would realize these peaceful people were also victims of 9/11.
Do I believe Muslims are wrong about who Jesus is? Of course I do. And I want them to come to know Him as Savior. But believing they are wrong about Jesus does not mean slandering them or calling them violent or terrorists. We don’t do that to Jehovah’s Witnesses, even though we disagree with them. (Come to think of it, we should probably try to befriend Jehovah’s Witnesses too!)
Christians should not be out in the world screaming alarmism over Muslims in their community. They should be the first example of showing kindness, love and friendship. They should be considering those who are most vulnerable and doing what they can to defend them.
I know there is a need for war at times in history. This post is not meant to debate that or whether or not the wars we have engaged in in the past few years were needful. I’m not talking one way or the other about the need for the government to exercise justice when there are wrongs committed.
What I’m talking about is the Church of Jesus Christ and how God is calling us to reach out to a hurting, broken world. And part of that world includes Muslims.
And by the way, even if we are talking about a Muslim who happens to be a terrorist (which I still believe is rare in this country), God wants us to love them too. After all, Jesus told us, “Love your enemies.” That kind of an attitude could make all the difference in the world and it could inspire a watching world to ask questions, to ask the reason for the hope that is within us. And then we can answer, “Jesus!”
How about you? What do you think Jesus would do after 9/11?