By Meg Bucher, Crosswalk.com
"Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn't trust them because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person's heart." - John 2:23-25 NLT
The engine hummed loudly overhead as a small passenger plane flew too close for my comfort. The local airport and its grass runway lie just over the highway. The plane was so close I could make out the shape of the passengers inside the cockpit. A sunny fall day in September immediately brought nostalgia I didn't want to revisit. Suddenly, one of my Cross-Country runners snapped me out of memory lane.
"What is 9/11?"
"What?" I responded in shock. 9/11 is personal to everyone who witnessed what happened that dark and tragic day, whether present or through the live media stream, which etched shock into our minds and hearts forever. We no longer felt safe …in America. Low-flying planes made me anxious for many years.
"Sit down." I welcomed the fresh young faces, born long after the tragic day so many of us will never be able to forget, and told them where I was on 9/11.
Living in my sleepy Ohio college town, watching our nation undergo an attack on TV was the last thing anyone expected to wake up to. Phones went off as people more personally connected to and affected by the tragedy tried to locate friends and relatives in and around the World Trade Center. I told them about the scenes we watched on live TV …but it was hard for them to understand. It's not that they didn't understand or lacked empathy. Living through something is quite different than hearing and learning about it. I know they all know poignantly what I meant, as they now hold onto the pandemic's effect on them and their children's lives.
In memory of tragedy, we often ask where God is in all of it. Everchanging and Almighty, God certainly has the power to stop these things from happening. How can the same people God specifically created to love become conduits of pure evil?
In the passage above, the Apostle John recalls people beginning to believe in Jesus. As "the one whom Jesus loved," he had a special insight into how Jesus processed their reaction to miracles. Fully God and fully man, Jesus "knew what was in each person's heart." I'm confident we often don't fully know the content of our hearts. Let alone another's. Because Jesus is fully God and man, He knew fully what lay in the depths of each heart, proclaiming belief after signs and wonders. John wrote, "Jesus didn't trust them because he knew all about people." We often confuse love and trust, as if one is needed to accomplish the other. But Jesus proves here it isn't. God is love. Jesus is fully God. He may not have trusted people …because we are …people …but He fully loved them …and us today. He couldn't have chosen any other way.
We, on the other hand, decide to draw a line in the sand with each other. We definitively associate and require trust with love. But this isn't what Scripture teaches. Jesus urged us to love God and love people. Trusting other people isn't mentioned as a requirement for love. Trust in God allows us to understand and become active conduits of His love. Love is an obedient choice due to our faith in Jesus and surrender to Him.
September 11 is etched in many of our hearts as a reason not to trust or love. The anger, hurt, and devastation left in the wake of one of the most tragic events in American history linger long. Unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, and pain remain. Righteous anger! The innocent loss of life is something that angers God, too! Tragic atrocities like this scar entire nations and generations. Forevermore, it affects the way we see others and shapes our opinions. It leaves us to think about the perfect love of our Almighty God. All knowing, everywhere, all of the time, the depth of pain He felt as those planes rerouted and executed their evil plot must have been a level of deep sorrow we cannot comprehend. Sorrow, which doesn't stop Him from loving people – because He is love. Psalm 34:18 says,
"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed." (NLT)
As I remember 9/11 and friends who were called up to serve our country as a result, I'm left with an unimaginable gap myself as to how anyone who was there and lost a loved one could ever find the strength to embrace forgiveness and peace. It's tough to make our faith make sense in times like this. Life-altering, unfair, tragic, and evil events which steal our peace.
Like the young runners who lacked the depth of perception to understand what happened that fateful day, I can't fully explain it, either. Love God, love people. That's what we're here for. The Apostle John knew Jesus well. Calling Himself "the one Jesus loved" meant he proclaimed himself Jesus' favorite. What that means to us as we read his Gospel account is he knew Jesus well as a person. He was there as Jesus processed things humanly, being fully God. Jesus knew He couldn't trust people who believed because of the miraculous things they saw – because He knew the depth of their hearts. Certainly, we are not expected to blindly let every unfair, hurtful, and tragic thing go like a feather floating away in the wind. Love is hard. Anyone married knows that! It's work, commitment, and constantly seeking God individually to love the other person properly.
Reflecting on the tragedy of 9/11, I believe Jesus is embracing us in an "I know …I get it" hug. Look at what He endured, Himself, because of what evil is capable of accomplishing in the world. Yet, evil didn't win that day, and though it seems as if it wins on tragic days etched in our history, evil has already lost. It's stomping its feet and still making a dangerous and chaotic mess …but love has already won. Jesus defeated death on the cross, sacrificing His life for all of us. Even though He knew what was in each person's heart. God's love, though I, myself, struggle to see Him in suffering times like 9/11, is unaffected by it.
Though God's heart is moved, His love isn't fickle, human love. He loves us through all things. Trust is the wise discernment we develop as we seek God's guidance. Boundaries with people are sometimes necessary …because we are people. Human nature is untrustworthy because we're all sinners. Jesus is our only hope in this mess. But when we place our hope in Him, we can see love during tragedy. People helping each other, as we were designed to do. Love overcoming, rebuilding, helping, and remembering. We don't have to trust people to love them. Let's follow Jesus' lead. Love God, love people. Knowing we are all in this mess together and pretty messy with sin, ourselves. Look for the miracles amid the evil making a mess in this world. To all who lost someone on 9/11, may the peace of God fill Your hearts until there is no more room for pain.
A Prayer to Remember 9/11
I pray You will reach out to hurting people and embrace them today. Lord, we need Your supernatural peace and wisdom to navigate the unfairness and pain in this world. There is so much we struggle to understand, God. Life can't be wrapped up in a neat bow. It's messy. Help us to see You in and through all of it. God, help us to understand the Apostle John's words about Jesus today. "No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person's heart," John wrote. Thank You, Jesus, that though You know us completely, You chose to die for us anyway. Help us remember none of us are worthy or "good" enough to make up for the sin in all of us. Yet don't let us forget we are made in Your image, and we have a way to You through Jesus! Keep us on the path to follow Him, and experience Your peace, hope, love, mercy, and forgiveness, and pass it along to the other people in our lives. Father, help us cope with the constant sad and bad news from the media each day. God, days like 9/11 are forever etched in the memories of those who were alive to witness it. Comfort hearts like only You can, knowing the very depths of each human heart. We love You, God. Help us to love You and love people.
In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Top/featured photo credit: ©GettyImages/Tetra Images
Fountain photo credit: ©GettyImages/Matthew T. Carroll
Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ at Joy Overflowing and Sunny&80. She is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ,” and "Sent, Faith in Motion." Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Web Network since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team as Editor of Christian Headlines. Meg loves being involved in her community and local church, leads Bible study, and serves as a youth leader for teen girls.
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