The Right Stuff :: by Lea Sylvester

Where were you on September 11, 2001? Not many reading this will ever forget that day, nor where they were or what they happened to be doing. The United States of America lost her innocence that day.

This commentary is written as a tribute to those who lost their lives and to those who unselfishly turned away from safety in order to save many others on that fateful day. In 2002, a  fellow writer had an idea to honor those who had lost their lives. Writers and bloggers across the country were given the opportunity to write about one of those Americans who died on September 11, 2001 by writing about them. These would all be published on a website. This writer was one who jumped at the chance to honor fellow Americans.

Indulge me as I explain one of the many reasons this intrigued me. Growing up in the South, I loved college sports, particularly of the “Crimson” kind. Over the years, I had witnessed “heroic” efforts of many on the football field. These were and are among many some people might call “heroes.” But, that definition is not fitting in relation to the people I was assigned to write about in September, 2002 and 2003. This experience was eye-opening in many ways.

We were assigned names of people. None of the writers participating in this project personally knew them. So, it was important to honor those I wrote about. I am sure all who took part in this felt the same. A name on a sheet of paper. That was all we were given. We wanted to give a face, a picture to those names. In doing so, the writers learned about the lives of these Americans and shared them with all who read about them.  It was a humbling experience.

Personally, I felt it was important not to stress the way they died, but instead to honor the life that each had lived. In each case, I tracked down family members, college professors, civic leaders, and pastors of the deceased. One of the common factors among them was that they had played sports. Perhaps playing team sports helped them understand that there is no “I” in team. In almost every case, these Americans served their communities, were exemplary employees, and they demonstrated their faith in God. Lip service to God Almighty is not what He wants. It is the heart that He wants. And, these did. They were a part of His team.

In a day when we so often hear fellow Christians say, “We’re not appointed to wrath,” in answer to timing of the Rapture, problems, etc., these Americans faced death and put themselves last. No, we are not appointed to wrath. But, to understand correctly, problems, tribulation, are not wrath. The wrath of Almighty God is eternal separation from Him. Jesus told us that we would, in fact, face persecution, problems for His namesake. We currently see thousands of our brethren across the world being crucified, tortured, tormented, because they are Christian and because they will not renounce their faith. Would any of us have the strength to do this if we were presented with the same circumstances?

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” Matthew 5:11 (NASB)

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.” Philippians 1:29

“But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. “ John 15:21

No matter what caused those towers to fall on that day, nothing changes the fact that many great Americans lost their lives and many did so by turning back to help others escape. This is true love.

For every account that could be written about the heroic efforts made by ordinary people that day, it comes down to this:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. “ John 15:13.

Except, these who laid down their lives didn’t know those they were dying for. These demonstrated the meaning of that passage of scripture. There is an account of one particular young man who did this. He had been a good student, had played NCAA football, had gotten a job with a financial company in New York City. This young man was in his office when one of the planes crashed into his building. He quickly got up and went to a mezzanine where elevators were located that could take him down a few floors. He saw trouble and knew people were in trouble. He never hesitated to go help. This young man was responsible for helping many escape as he helped them down to the ground floor where they ran for safety. He had even carried one woman in his arms. He was within safety and could have also run with them. Instead, he turned back and went inside to help others. His young man lost his life that day. Greater love hath no man…

It is important that we remember we are just a small part of the Body of Christ. We are to work in unison with others to do the will of our Father. Please do not take this to mean that we are to join hands with people of other faiths (other gods – little “g” gods) and sing Kumbaya, because all paths lead to God. That is a lie being perpetrated by many pastors, teachers, denominations, today. Don’t buy into that. No, we are a part of The Body of The Messiah. There is only one Anointed One.

In this day of the internet, one doesn’t have to look long at websites or at YouTube to see those who profess to believe in Jesus Christ attacking fellow Christians. This is more common than not. What part of “loving” do these not understand? We see this behavior out of unbelievers and let us pray that we are never drawn into this behavior. Our walk should come first above any other thing in our lives. Let this short commentary and the spirit in which it is being written sink in. What if those brave Americans had saved themselves and not thought of others who were trapped?

We are admonished in God’s Word many times to care for the sick, the poor, the helpless. Today, we see welfare at an all time high. If “the church” did it’s job, many would not have to turn to these programs. In the days of billion dollar church building programs, where is our concern for those in our community who are needy? We need to take a look at what Jesus said about these things. Do all things as unto the Lord. Here are a few reminders:

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: …” I John 2:1-29.

The experience of researching many who died on September 11, 2001 and telling their story greatly affected this writer. What was evident was that they lived lives that were unselfish, they demonstrated the love of Christ daily in their words and actions, and they gave their lives (which were not their own) in order to help others. It profoundly illustrated how Christians are to live every day; not just for an hour a week or so.

Surely we can learn much from their example.

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