Like nearly everyone who was alive in 2001, I remember the moment the towers fell with pristine clarity. I was putting the finishing touches on my mascara that Tuesday morning when my mom poked her head into the bathroom, a look of panic across her face. You’ll never believe what I just heard reported on the radio, she said, and she was right, I didn’t believe it: something about a plane, and a building in New York, some horrible accident. My mind could not quite compute what she was trying to tell me.
I was only a week into my senior year of high school, and my mornings were usually filled with early-schoolyear jitters; that morning, the typical school day anxiety was immediately replaced by a deeper sense of dread. I raced through the rest of my makeup routine and rushed downstairs to flip on the television news. What my mom and I had struggled to envision based on the radio reports turned to reality with the TV images of a fiery tower and panicked New Yorkers. And when a second plane careened into another tower, we understood that this was no accident. Something horrible was taking place before our eyes, a historic event that would change everything.
I went to school that day, but no lessons were taught. Televisions were on in every classroom, and my classmates and I wandered from class to class in a haze. Few words were spoken, except in my AP Government class: there, our history teacher—one of the most well-read instructors of my academic career—opened up the floor for discussion. We asked him what was happening, and why, and what this would mean for our country. He didn’t have answers, but he made space for our concerns and our questions. He acknowledged our fear and confusion and allowed us to express our anger.
Because we were angry. We were angry at this attack on our country, the lives that had been taken, the chaos that had been unleashed. We were angry over the loss of our innocence and youthful naïveté that had allowed us to assume our country was safe, that evil was more speculation than reality, that war and terrorism were things that happened other places but never in America. We did not fully comprehend all that had happened or what would take place in the coming weeks and months, but we were overwhelmed by a sense of indignation and thirst for justice.
In the years since the 9/11 attacks I’ve had many more encounters with this moral indignation and yearning for justice. Our news is flooded with reports of mass shootings, terrorists attacks, unprompted violence, and other horrific acts of brutality leashed out on innocent beings. My soul grieves over the existence of such evil in our world, and my blood boils with outrage that such horrific acts are allowed to happen without retaliation or retribution.
Even as I yearn for a world or system in which no atrocity goes unpunished, I know that every human attempt at enacting true justice will fall short. That’s not to say that we should not promote and uphold laws that prevent such atrocities; criminal justice and law enforcement are important, and righteous war has its place. But even the most ethical systems have their shortcomings. Not every earthly act of evil will be avenged; much wrongdoing will go unpunished; the bad guys often go free as our world aches and groans under the weight of immorality.
The reality is that this world is broken. But an even greater reality is that God’s Kingdom is established and cannot be shaken. We can rejoice and be glad that our Righteous Heavenly Father is seated on His throne, enacting eternal justice within His dominion. Evil has been temporarily unleashed, but it will NOT prevail.
For everyone of us who has felt frustrated and angry over the sins of others, this is good news! BUT this awareness of a truly righteous Judge leads us to tremble in awe and humility . . . because we know that we are not innocent. Most of us have not flown airplanes into buildings or used firearms to take the lives of schoolchildren, but none of us is free of sin. If God is truly a good and fair judge, we deserve punishment.
But therein lies the very best news of all: we all have sinned and fall short, but we all have been offered a chance for redemption. Christ’s blood was shed for us, paying the price that we deserved to pay. In the greatest plot twist of all eternity, Christ enacted full justice upon Himself, paving the way for our forgiveness and reunion with Him in an eternal kingdom where there are no tears and there is no injustice or evil.
Until Christ’s return, there will always be wars and rumors of wars. There will be evil people doing evil things that seem to go unpunished, and we will rightfully mourn over these injustices. But we can trust in the Lord who is ALWAYS good and ALWAYS just and who will ALWAYS have the final say.
Lord God, we repent of the moments when we have attempted to usurp the justice that is yours alone. We acknowledge that vengeance rests in your hands and that evil WILL be punished, but not by us. We thank you for being a good and just God, and most of all we thank your for making a way for your justice to be satisfied even as we are forgiven and welcomed into your eternal kingdom. Thank you for your love that conquers our sin. Amen.