A preacher’s reflection on the attacks on our country on September 11, 2001 — Rich Schnieders, pastor of Friendship Grace Brethren Church, Fort Myers, Fla., shared these thoughts on his Facebook page this morning. It is reproduced here with his permission.
This morning as I work in my study with TV news on, keeping an eye on the memorial events around the country, I reflected on that day 18 years ago.
Eighteen years ago, I was a Lieutenant in the Lee County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office, commander of the Technical Services Division. I had completed a staff meeting and had just sat down at my desk to view some reports. A TV out in the outer office was on following the news when an anchor came on announcing that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. I went out to the outer office to check out the news story. After watching for a while, one of the technicians stated, “Look another plane just hit the other tower.” At first, I thought it was just a replay, but it was not.
Within 30 minutes of the second plane hitting the towers, the sheriff had called the staff together to begin putting into action our emergency plan. Within two hours of the first plane hitting the tower, we had extra personnel guarding significant locations within the county. Not knowing what was happening our first response was in abundant caution. These actions were repeated by local law enforcement all over the country.
On September 11, 2001, I was also the pastor of Friendship Community Church, now Friendship Grace Brethren Church. I notified the elders who reached out to others to begin a prayer circle for our nation and what we believed would be coming. A sense of pain and anger was real in the community as I am sure it was all over the country. Prayer meetings popped up all over the area. American flags were popping up in places they did not usually fly. America was shocked and frightened, but also resolved to care for each other and the nation.
Now 18 years later, my pain and anger have been replaced with a sense of conflict. The American Patriot in me is in conflict with my heart as a Follower of Christ. My first reactions on September 11, 2001, was to bomb all of the Islamic lands into oblivion. I suspect most Americans had the same response. As my anger quieted, it was replaced with a nudge from the Holy Spirit that the answer is not the destruction of entire people groups but is presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ to those same people. Jesus told us to love our enemies. Not so easy on September 11, 2001. My response was the same as Jonah’s when told to go to Nineveh and preach the gospel of the kingdom to them. Jonah knew that God was a God of mercy and grace and knew God would forgive the Ninevites. They were the enemy; how could God forgive them? That was also America’s response on September 11, 2001.
Since September 11, 2001, Muslims have been coming to know the Lord at a rate higher than ever seen before in history. While the United States and the western world is still at war with terror groups who still want to kill infidels, there are some from the United States and other western people who are doing all they can to see Muslims break out of an oppressive religious system that only leads to conflict and hell. Many people are working and praying to see Muslims become followers of Jesus.
The church’s response to the attacks 18 years ago and the memories today should not be based upon our American Patriotism but on our Kingdom Patriotism. Our focus should not be on revenge but on evangelism. While my heart breaks at the reading of the names of people who died on this day 18 years ago during the attacks, my heart also breaks for the Muslims worldwide who die not knowing Jesus Christ. I am an American Patriot who served more than 30 years in Public Safety. But I am no longer simply an American Patriot. I am also a citizen of God’s Kingdom, and my patriotism to the kingdom takes precedence. My eternal home, God’s eternal Kingdom, is what must set my priorities, not my temporal home.
As churches in America in 2019, our focus must be on Kingdom matters and not national temporal patriotism. We still should be good American Citizens and support this country whenever support of this country does not conflict with the full support of the Kingdom of God. Watching the memorials makes this point very strongly in my heart and mind. We should be praying for and supporting ministries to the Islamic world. We should do all that we can to change the world through sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others around the world, including Islamic groups that seek to destroy us. God’s love can overcome the evil of the world. It is ok to be an American Patriot, but we should be a greater patriot of a higher kingdom, God’s Kingdom.
Mourn the loss, celebrate the heroes, pray for our military and our government, and work and pray to see others join the kingdom. That is the message for me today, September 11, 2019.